California's Physician-Assisted Suicide Bill Shelved for the Year

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 (David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

Recognizing they lacked votes in a key Assembly committee, authors of legislation that would have allowed terminally ill Californians to legally end their lives pulled the bill Tuesday morning.

Senate Bill 128, the End of Life Option Act, had already cleared the state Senate, but faced opposition in the Assembly Health Committee, including from a group of Southern California Democrats from heavily Latino districts after the archbishop of Los Angeles increased its advocacy efforts in opposition to the bill.

"We continue to work with Assembly Members to ensure they are comfortable with the bill," said Sens. Lois Wolk, (D-Davis), and Bill Monning, (D-Monterey), and Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, (D-Stockton) in a joint statement. "For dying Californians, like Jennifer Glass, who was scheduled to testify today, this issue is urgent. We remain committed to passing the End of Life Option Act for all Californians who want and need the option of medical aid in dying.”

Under the bill, mentally competent adults who are terminally ill with less than six months to live could request lethal medication from a physician.

In an interview, Monning stressed that the bill is "not dead"  and that it has two years -- not one -- for passage.

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"We're going to review our options," he said. "We invested a lot of energy in the Senate side, and we walk away from the decision today knowing that we're going to have to spend more time cultivating our colleagues in the Assembly."

A poll last month found that 69 percent of Californians -- and 70 percent of Latinos -- supported the bill. The poll was conducted by the advocacy group Compassion and Choices. "The bill is still alive and well," Patricia Gonzalez-Portillo, a spokeswoman for the organization, said in an interview. She also said her organization would continue working with Assembly members to advocate for the bill.

The bill had received a boost after the California Medical Association changed its stance from opposed to neutral.

The bill is modeled after a 1994 Oregon law which permits aid-in-dying. Four other states -- Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico -- have authorized it as well.

The issue was brought home to Californians after 29-year-old resident Brittany Maynard moved to Oregon so she could get a lethal prescription under that state's death with dignity law.  She was terminally ill with brain cancer and died last November. A video she recorded 19 days before she took life-ending drugs was shown at a Senate hearing in March.