California Senate Bill 128, the “End of Life Options Act,” has stalled in the state Legislature, and appears to have no prospects for passage this year.
The bill, which is modeled on Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide (PAS) law, had passed the state Senate 23-15, largely on party lines. (There are 26 Democrats and 14 Republicans in the state Senate; all Republicans had opposed the bill and most Democrats had supported it.)
However, in the Assembly, the bill died in the Health Committee, for lack of votes. It turns out that Democrats on the panel were divided. In particular, Democrats supporting less affluent, heavily Latino districts were in opposition on justice grounds. It looks like they worried that, if the bill became law, the “voluntary” requests for PAS might not be so voluntary, and vulnerable people and non-English speakers in particular would not be adequately protected.
The Sacramento Bee contacted 19 members of the committee. Fifteen responded, only four of whom said they would vote for the bill. While proponents suggested they might push for passage this year, they have a July 17 committee deadline, and prospects appear slim.
It is said that proponents will pursue a ballot initiative, putting the question directly to the people of California. They might have better success that way, as public opinion polls have indicated majority support for PAS in California. Or they might try to get PAS imposed by court order. (Sound familiar?)