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Renewed Effort To Pass Right-To-Die Legislation

Katie Orr, Capital Public Radio

Debbie Ziegler holds a picture of her daughter Brittany Maynard as she speaks in support of a measure that would allow physician-assisted suicide in California.

Katie Orr, Capital Public Radio

Democratic state lawmakers have reintroduced a bill that would allow California physicians to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill patients. The measure was introduced in the special legislative session on healthcare. A previous bill stalled in the Assembly Health Committee when it ran into strong opposition from disability rights groups and the Catholic Church.

Supporters are now attempting to neutralize the religious argument to win more legislative support. Debbie Ziegler’s daughter Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and moved to Oregon, to take advantage of that state's physician-assisted suicide law. Ziegler says a similar law in California should not be blocked for religious reasons.

"What right does anyone of a specific religious faith have to demand that I behave in concordance with their faith as I face my eminent death?" she says. 

Ziegler says assisted-suicide would provide an option, not a mandate, for terminal patients.

But Marilyn Golden with the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund says too many people might see it as their only choice.

"Many people who might be harmed this could use assisted-suicide because of pressure, whether economic or emotional, sometimes from family,"she says.

Two California judges have recently refused to act on physician assisted- suicide, saying the Legislature must decide the issue.