Capitol Alert

Vote on California assisted death bill delayed

Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, asks members to vote SB 128 a bill that would allow physicians to assist in the death of terminally ill patients on Thursday, June 4, 2015.
Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, asks members to vote SB 128 a bill that would allow physicians to assist in the death of terminally ill patients on Thursday, June 4, 2015. hamezcua@sacbee.com

In a sign of political headwinds for a California bill allowing terminally ill patients to take their own lives, the measure’s author has delayed a hearing so she has more time to persuade wavering lawmakers.

Doctors could prescribe dying Californians lethal drugs under Senate Bill 128, which passed the Senate floor earlier this month over the ardent objections of some Republicans. Now Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, has pushed back an Assembly Health Committee vote as she tries to drum up enough votes to advance the bill.

“We’re disappointed that our progress, which has been so steady,” has faltered, Wolk said, though she said she believes that “this is a momentary pause.”

The bill received a boost when the California Medical Association dropped its opposition in May, sidelining one of the main institutions, along with the Catholic Church, that assailed and helped defeat previous iterations of the bill.

But the question of whether to allow people to hasten their deaths tends to be an intensely intimate one, with lawmakers often filtering their perspective through experiences with suffering loved ones or their own brushes with mortality. Opponents on the Senate floor spoke of contending with suicidal thoughts as they endured health issues.

“Of course this is a deeply personal, individual choice,” Wolk said, “and we’re very much aware of that.”

If the bill passes the health committee it would still need to clear the Assembly Judiciary Committee before receiving a full floor vote.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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