California has become the fifth US state to legalise assisted suicide after Governor Jerry Brown - a former Jesuit seminarian and committed Catholic - signed the legislation into power.
Last month the state’s senate voted 23-14 to legalise assisted suicide. Now that the governor has signed the bill it will become law in 90 days. In a personal message written to accompany signing the bill, the governor wrote: “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 ... 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.
“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.”
Tim Rosales, a spokesman for Californians Against Assisted Suicide, which includes doctors, advocates for the disabled, the California Catholic Conference and other religious groups, told the Los Angeles Times: “This is a dark day for California and for the Brown legacy.
Debbie Ziegler whose daughter Brittany Maynard moved from California to Oregon to commit suicide at the state capitol Sacramento for the signing (PA)
“As someone of wealth and access to the world’s best medical care and doctors, the governor's background is very different than that of millions of Californians living in healthcare poverty without that same access — these are the people and families potentially hurt by giving doctors the power to prescribe lethal overdoses to patients.”
California becomes the fifth state behind Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont. Outside of the US, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg allow assisted dying in some form.
The New Mexico Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the issue later this month. Canada’s Supreme Court earlier this year ruled that all Canadians have a right to doctor-assisted suicide, and the issue also has been debated in Germany and France.
Conversely, last month the UK Parliament voted convincingly against pursuing an assisted suicide Bill.
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