California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Monday legislation that allows terminally ill people to end their lives. The signing of the End of Life Option Act makes California the fifth state to pass so-called “right to die” or “assisted suicide” legislation, along with Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont.
Under the new law, only terminally ill individuals, expecting to die within six months would be eligible to receive a lethal dose of drugs prescribed by a doctor. “The bill includes requirements that patients be physically capable of taking the medication themselves, that two doctors approve it, that the patients submit several written requests and that there be two witnesses, one of whom is not a family member,” according to the Associated Press. The law will not go into effect until 90 days after the state legislature adjourns, which likely won’t happen until early in 2016.
The decision whether to sign the bill appeared to be a deeply personal one for Brown, a Catholic, who once attended a Jesuit seminary. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain,” Brown wrote on Monday. “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.”
“Brown said he carefully considered input from two of his own doctors, a Catholic bishop and advocates for the disabled, as well as pleas from the family of Brittany Maynard, a cancer victim who took her own life,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “Most Republican lawmakers opposed the bill on moral grounds [while] Democrats who voted against it cited religious views or experiences in which family members given months to live by doctors had lived for years.”