California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) says that his decision to sign a bill allowing doctors to assist some patients in voluntarily ending their own lives came only after considering his own mortality.
In an open letter to the California State Assembly, the governor — a former Jesuit seminary student — said he grappled with the decision to allow Californians with terminal diagnoses to take their own lives with assistance from doctors, and came to the decision only after considering what he would do if he were terminally ill.
“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” Brown wrote in the letter.
“I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”
California’s law, which permits mentally lucid individuals with terminal diagnoses to take end-of-life drugs as long as they meet strict requirements, has long been a controversial issue. Religious institutions, including the Catholic Church, strongly oppose the law, which they say equates to premature suicide.
Brown, a Catholic who opposes the death penalty, hadn’t indicated previously whether he supported or opposed the bill.
In Monday’s letter, Brown said that he consulted with both sides and heard pleas made by high-profile end-of-life advocates — including Brittany Maynard, a young woman with terminal brain cancer whose story about her decision to take end-of-life drugs went viral last year.
“I have also read the letters of those who support the bill, including heartfelt pleas from Brittany Maynard’s family and Archbishop Desmond Tut. In addition, I have discussed this matter with a Catholic Bishop, two of my own doctors and former classmates, and friends who take varies, contradictory, and nuanced positions,” Brown said.
California is now the fifth state with “death with dignity” laws on the books.
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