Following months of emotionally-charged debate, Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed landmark legislation allowing terminally-ill patients to obtain lethal medication. When the measures goes into effect in 2016, California will become the fifth state to legalize physician-assisted suicide.
[For a comprehensive list of current state laws and a curated set of arguments for and against the practice, check out ProCon.org.]
The "End of Life Option Act" requires two different doctors to first determine that a patient has six months or less to live before prescribing lethal drugs. Patients must be physically able to swallow the pill-form medication themselves and have the mental capacity to make medical decisions.
“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” Brown, who struggled with the decision, wrote in his signing message. “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.”