On Monday, California Governor Jerry Brown announced he signed the "Right to Die" legislation, which will allow terminally ill patients the legal right to end their lives using doctor-prescribed drugs.
Brown, a former Jesuit seminary student, said he signed the bill after deep personal reflection. In a statement, he said,
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.
Opponents to the bill, including the Catholic Church, said the bill allows for premature suicide.
California residents grappled with this very legislation for the last two decades. But, what might have changed their hearts and minds was the story of Brittany Maynard.
Maynard was a 29-year-old woman who suffered from a rare form of terminal brain cancer.
Throughout her illness, Maynard and her family advocated for death with dignity. The family moved from California to Oregon, where last November, Maynard ended her life peacefully and on her own terms.
In a personal essay for Elite Daily, Maynard wrote,
I cannot tell you the relief that comes from knowing I don't have to endure prolonged pain and suffering. Because my body is young and healthy, my end-of-life was going to be especially horrendous, as my brain cancer advanced and went to war with my body.
After her death, Maynard's family continued to fight for the cause she believed in.
In an interview published Monday with Diablo magazine, Dan Diaz, Maynard's widower, said,
Nobody should have to leave their home, their medical team, their friends, and their family after being told they have six months to live. Nobody should have to go through what Brittany went through.
California will now be the fifth state to allow for doctor-assisted suicide following Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont.
The bill received and signed by Brown requires patients to be physically capable of taking the medication themselves and have approval from two doctors. The patient must also submit several written requests, and there must be two witnesses, one of whom is not a family member, the Associated Press reports.
The law will not immediately take effect.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, the law will only take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns its special session on healthcare. The special session may or may not take place until 2016.