The state Senate on Friday sent Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that would allow physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to Californians diagnosed as having less than six months to live.
Two days after the bill cleared the Assembly, the Senate approved the measure, sending it to the governor's desk.
Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), a coauthor of the measure, called the process of approving the bill a "historic effort."
"Californians want us, the Legislature, to act to eliminate the needless pain and prolonged suffering of those who are dying," Wolk told her colleagues.
Republican Sen. Robert Huff of San Dimas opposed the bill.
"Let's call this what it is. It's not death with dignity. It's assisted killing," he said.
The vote was 23-14, with one democrat joining the Republicans in opposition.
Opponents of the bill said there are too many unanswered questions about how the proposed law would prevent people from being coerced by heirs or relatives into ending their lives prematurely.
"End-of-life treatment options are already limited for millions of people—constrained by poverty, disability discrimination, and other obstacles," said Tim Rosales, a spokesman for Californians Against Assisted Suicide. "Adding this so-called "choice" into our dysfunctional healthcare system will push people into cheaper lethal options."
The question now is what action Brown, a former Catholic seminarian, will take on the measure.
The governor has not yet taken a public position on the proposal, but Wolk predicted months ago that bill would pose a challenge for him.
"This is a governor who will struggle with this issue, given his background," Wolk predicted then.
The proposal gained momentum after Californian Brittany Maynard moved to Oregon last November so she could end her life and avoid the pain and debilitating effects of brain cancer. Her husband, Dan Diaz, noted that three days before she died "Brittany had the opportunity to have a conversation with Gov. Brown" about her desire for California to adopt a Aid-in-Dying bill like Oregon's.
"I am confident that the governor will listen to the 75% of Californians who do support this option, that the governor will take into consideration that this is an option for an individual voluntarily to pursue," Diaz said. "Ethically this decision belongs with the individual working with his physician. I am hopeful."