California governor reflects on his own death as he passes right-to-die law

October 7, 2015
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Article originally appeared on The Verge

“ABx2 15 is not an ordinary bill because it deals with life and death”

California Governor Jerry Brown just signed a bill into law that legalizes the right of dying people to voluntarily end their lives. Along with his signature, Brown issued a heartfelt letter to the California State Assembly explaining the reason for approving the End of Life Option Act.

“The crux of the matter is whether the State of California should continue to make it a crime for a dying person to end his life, no matter how great his pain or suffering,” Brown wrote. “In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death.”

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“I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain,” Brown wrote. “I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”

The act makes California the fifth US state to permit terminally ill patients the ability to end their lives on their terms, joining Washington, Oregon, Vermont, and New Mexico. California’s law will require that patients be capable of administering the life-ending medication to themselves. Additionally, a patient’s decision must be submitted in a written request signed in front of two witnesses, and the procedure must be approved by two doctors.

You can read Brown’s full letter below.

To the Members of the California State Assembly:

ABx2 15 is not an ordinary bill because it deals with life and death. The crux of the matter is whether the State of California should continue to make it a crime for a dying person to end his life, no matter how great his pain or suffering.

I have carefully read the thoughtful opposition materials presented by a number of doctors, religious leaders and those who champion disability rights. I have considered the theological and religious perspectives that any deliberate shortening of one’s life is sinful.

I have also read the letters of those who support the bill, including heartfelt pleas from Brittany Maynard’s family and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In addition, I have discussed this matter with a Catholic Bishop, two of my own doctors and former classmates and friends who take varied, contradictory and nuanced positions.

In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death. I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.

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