Capitol Alert

Assisted death will become legal in California in June

Allow assisted death sooner, California advocates urge

At a Dec. 10, 2015 press conference, advocates of assisted death urged California lawmakers to act.
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At a Dec. 10, 2015 press conference, advocates of assisted death urged California lawmakers to act.

After passing sweeping anti-tobacco legislation on Thursday, the state Senate voted to finally close the special legislative session on health care, thereby starting the countdown for California’s assisted death law to take effect.

Approved through the special session last fall and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October, the controversial legislation does not kick in for 90 days after the session concludes. That means terminally ill patients can seek life-ending drugs from their physicians beginning June 9.

As the special session dragged on for months while lawmakers negotiated a tax extension, supporters of assisted death agitated publicly for them to wrap things up. Several prominent advocates died before they could take advantage of the policy.

Sen. Bill Monning, one of the authors of the bill, said everything is ready to go as soon as it takes effect.

“We incorporated into the law all of the requirements, like the forms that patients and physicians have to fill out,” the Carmel Democrat said. Nothing will be delayed by regulatory agencies figuring out how to implement its provisions.

The California Medical Association also recently provided its members with a 15-page legal handbook for doctors who will have to decide whether to participate in the law, which is voluntary.

But the issue isn’t completely beyond the Capitol just yet; Monning has another measure this session to establish an informational hotline on assisted death, and it will circle back around at some point before 2026, when the law is set to expire. Meanwhile, after failing to get a referendum on the November ballot, some opponents are now raising funds for a legal challenge.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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