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End-Of-Life Bill Passes California Senate

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, presents the "End of Life Option Act" on the state Senate floor. The bill now moves to the Assembly.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

UPDATE - 4:53 P.M. 

The California Senate approved legislation allowing terminally ill patients to use prescription medications to end their lives.

The debate lasted nearly two hours. Senator after senator told emotional stories about themselves and their loved ones. The bill’s author, Democrat Lois Wolk, recalled as a 17-year-old watching her mother die after a three-year battle with metastatic cancer.

“And it was frankly brutal – brutal. Sometimes the pain could be controlled but other times it could not," says Wolk. "Her suffering was prolonged and unbearable – for her, certainly; also for her family.” 

Republican Sharon Runner told her own story of thinking about ending her life. A double-lung transplant saved her from an auto-immune disease called scleroderma.

“Many a time, during that two months in ICU, I considered it – and didn’t do it. But look at the life I have now and continue to live, and serve, and play with my grandchildren. It wouldn’t be possible if I had decided to do that.”

The husband and mother of Brittany Maynard were in the Senate chambers to watch. Maynard, who had brain cancer, helped spark the bill when she moved from California to Oregon to end her life last fall. Governor Jerry Brown’s office and Maynard’s husband say the governor called Maynard in the week before she died to discuss the bill. Given his time as a Catholic seminarian, it’s unclear what Brown will do if the bill reaches his desk. That will only happen if it passes the Assembly, where it’s now headed after a 23-to-15 mostly party-line vote in the Senate.


(AP) - California lawmakers have advanced a right-to-die bill, giving hope to those who want the nation's most populous state to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives under doctor's care.

The state Senate passed the measure on a 23 to 14 vote Thursday, ahead of a legislative deadline.

The issue gained traction nationally after 29-year-old Brittany Maynard moved from California to Oregon to end her life in November.

Oregon allows doctors to prescribe suicide drugs to certain consenting patients.

Maynard recorded her final days in widely viewed online videos that included support for right-to-die laws.

Opponents of such legislation in California and elsewhere say suicide is against God's will and that some patients may feel pressured to kill themselves so they don't burden family members.

The measure heads to the Assembly.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio