When I first started writing The Euthanist, I was intrigued by the ongoing debate over end of life decisions such as physician-assisted suicide and euthansia. The story is set in California, where, at the time of writing, there was no active bill that allowed patients the power to end their own lives.
In the U.S., only five states currently have legislation that supports physician-assisted suicide: Washington, Vermont, Montana, New Mexico and Oregon (for those curious about Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, arguably the most progressive legislation of its kind in the country. As of this writing, 27 states and the District of Columbia are considering similar bills.
Right now in California, a new bill has been introduced over the past few months. California State Bill 128 (or SB 128), The California End of Life Option Act, would create landmark provisions for people who wish to have more control over end of life decisions. The latest text of the bill is available here.
The bill would "allow patients who are mentally competent and have fewer than six months to live, as determined by two physicians, to obtain prescriptions for medication to end their lives in a humane and peaceful manner, while protecting the vulnerable with strict guidelines and procedures."
Some argue that the bill was inspired by Brittany Maynard, a woman from California who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor at the beginning of 2014. Unable to end her life legally in this state, she moved to Oregon, where she died a lethal dose of barbiturates prescribed by her doctor.
Currently, the bill has been approved by the California Senate Health Committee, and is supported by the Los Angeles City Council. But the debate has heated up in the past few days, with faith leaders such as Rick Warren strongly opposing the bill.
As the most populous state in the union, California's decision over SB 128 could be a tipping point for other states as they decide how much say patients have in these decisions. I will be paying keen attention in the coming months.