California's aid-in-dying bill withdrawn amid opposition from religious groups

Authors of the controversial aid-in-dying bill in California withdrew it from a scheduled key committee hearing on July 7 after it failed to garner enough support and amid opposition from religious groups including the Catholic Church.

"We have chosen not to present SB 128, the End of Life Option Act, today, in the Assembly Health Committee. However, we are continuing to work with the Committee members to ensure that when the bill is presented, they are comfortable with the measure," said Senator Bill Monning, author of the bill along with Senator Lois Wolk and Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman.

Monning added, "Seven out of every 10 California voters want to see SB 128 become law and we remain committed to passing the End of Life Option Act for all Californians who want this option."

The bill gives terminally ill adults in California who are in the final stages of life to request aid-in-dying medication from a doctor.

Eggman's spokesperson, Christian Burkin, said the bill would likely not pass the committee this year while committee members remained uncomfortable with it.

The bill was passed by the California Senate last month.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is opposing the bill, and Archbishop Jose Gomez praised the health committee for making "the right decision for California, and especially for the poor and most vulnerable members of our society."

"I am grateful for the committee members' thoughtful reflection and leadership on this complicated issue," he wrote on The Tidings Online.

Gomez said the bill is not a Catholic issue or question of doctrine or ethics.

"For us, the issue of physician-assisted suicide involves fundamental questions of human dignity and social justice. And we are not alone in our concerns. We are part of a diverse and broad coalition — ranging from health care professionals and persons living with disabilities to leaders in our African American, Hispanic and immigrant communities," he said.

The bill was modelled after Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, which was approved by voters in 1994, and has since been used in more than 750 deaths.

If approved, California will join Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, which have their aid-in-dying laws.

Compassion and Choices, which is campaigning for the passage of the bill, said it is not yet over.

"SB 128 is still alive and well," said Compassion & Choices California Campaign Director Toni Broaddus. "Seven out of every 10 California voters want to see this bill become law, so we will not stop until we make that happen."

It said it is pursuing other strategies to keep the bill moving.

The bill was inspired by the advocacy of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old with terminal cancer, who moved from California to Oregon to use the law. She ended her life on Nov. 1 last year.