A legacy of compassion

Gov. Jerry Brown should sign the End of Life Option Act

At the tail-end of the state Legislature’s special session on health care for the poor last week, lawmakers passed the End of Life Option Act, more commonly known as the right-to-die bill. It now heads to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, who advocates fear may not sign the controversial proposed law.

That fear may be well-founded, considering Brown is a Catholic who spent three years training to be a priest. In Catholicism, suicide is traditionally considered a mortal sin. That means passage of the bill will require the governor to overcome a deep-rooted religious dilemma.

Simply put, Brown must set aside his beliefs for the good of the citizenry.

The bill, which is modeled on a similar law in Oregon, allows certain terminally ill patients to end their own lives peacefully. The law would allow doctors to prescribe to qualified patients—those with fewer than six months to live—a lethal dose of medication.

The movement to approve such a law in the Golden State became a national one thanks to Brittany Maynard, a Bay Area native who at 29 years old was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. After researching treatments and determining that her quality of life was more important than simply extending her life, Maynard chose to forgo the life-extending options and make the most of the short time that remained.

She learned, however, that because she was young and otherwise healthy, her body likely would hold on well beyond that of her mental capacities. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything doctors could legally do to aid her in dying on her own terms. That’s why Maynard moved to Oregon—to take advantage of that state’s aptly titled Death with Dignity Act. Her legacy is for other Californians to be able to stay put—to end their lives as she did. It’s a legacy of compassion and one that the governor should honor.