End of Life Option Act passes from legislature

Saturday, September 12, 2015

SACRAMENTO – A bill to allow terminally ill Californians to obtain medication to aid in dying passed from the State Legislature today following a final vote of the senate, which had already passed a substantially similar bill earlier in the session.

The bill, ABX2-15, is authored by Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, and was presented on the Senate floor by Senator Lois Wolk, D-Davis. It allows for mentally-capable, terminally-ill adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for aid-in-dying drugs to painlessly and peacefully hasten their death.

It passed from the Senate on a vote of 23-14.

Eggman said she was relieved by the bill’s passage because of what it meant for Californians suffering from terminal illness who are hoping they will have the option to explore it.

“Yesterday I was visited in my office by Christy O’Donnell, who has been a warrior for this cause while fighting terminal cancer, and all I can think of now is of her, of her struggle, of her daughter, of their courage and strength, and the comfort that I hope that we have provided to her, and the many more for whom she has been called to speak so powerfully,” Eggman said. “This is their day.”

Wolk and Senator Bill Monning, D-Carmel, were the authors of the earlier bill, SB 128, which they had successfully shepherded through the senate before running aground in the Assembly Committee on Health.

The senators issued the following statements on the bill’s passage:

Sen. Wolk:  “I am proud to be a part of this historic moment. California is ready to allow physician aid-in-dying and we have done our job as the legislature to craft a thoughtful and carefully considered piece of legislation. We have listened to everyone – patients and their family members, healthcare professionals, and those with experience in other states where this policy has been working well without abuse. It was in the Senate we started this process and worked with the California Medical Association to protect both patients and physicians to remove the CMAs prior opposition. It is here in the Senate today that we finished what we started. I trust the Governor to recognize the importance, urgency and significance of this legislation and to answer the pleadings of those terminally ill Californians who want this option and the strong majority of all Californians who support making it available. No longer should terminally ill individuals in California be forced to suffer needlessly in their final days when a more compassionate option is available.”

Sen. Monning: “This is a historic milestone for our state, and it is especially monumental for those Californians with terminal illnesses who want options to determine how they spend their final days,” Senator Monning said.  “The passage of this legislation to the Governor is the culmination of months of discussions and passionate debates about the end of life care.  I want to thank my colleagues in both the Senate and the Assembly for listening to the overwhelming public sentiment supporting this issue and responding with a sense of compassion and urgency.”

Eggman, a principal co-author of SB 128, introduced ABX2-15 in mid-August, in the extraordinary special session. The bill was debated on the Assembly floor for hours on Wednesday before Eggman’s dramatic, emotionally-charged closing remarks, which may be viewed here. It passed from the Assembly 43-34, with two votes from Republican Assembly members Catharine Baker, R-San Ramon, and David Hadley, R-Manhattan Beach.

The bill will now be sent to the governor, who must sign the bill before it can become law. If signed, it would take effect 90 days after the end of the session.