SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – California lawmakers on Thursday revived a bill that would allow physician-assisted dying in the most populous U.S. state, after a renewal of debate on end-of-life issues prompted by the death of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard last year.
The bill, which is being fought by numerous religious and medical organizations, would allow adults suffering from incurable illnesses that their doctors say will kill them within six months to request medication to end their lives.
It was approved by the state Senate appropriations committee days after the powerful California Medical Association dropped its opposition.It now goes to the full Senate.
“We are one step closer to ensuring Californians have access to all options when they are facing the end of life,” said Senator Lois Wolk, a Democrat who co-authored the bill.
Another co-author, Democratic state Senator Bill Monning, said the bill was inspired by the death of Maynard, who moved to Oregon from California so that she could get a legal prescription for lethal drugs under that state’s aid-in-dying law.
Backers of the proposal made some changes to the bill to gain more support after it initially met with strong opposition from hospitals, doctors, anti-abortion organizations and disability rights groups.
As currently written, it allows hospitals and medical providers to refuse to comply with a patient’s wish for assisted dying, and also makes it illegal to pressure or manipulate people into ending their lives.
On May 20, the California Medical Association, which still opposes this concept, removed its formal opposition to the bill.
The California ProLife Council, which opposed the bill, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. But the organization, which opposes abortion, said on its website that legalizing assisted dying puts at risk people who are disabled or depressed.