September 26, 2022

Fate of assisted suicide in California hinges on Governor

The idiosyncratic Jerry Brown is mulling over whether or not to veto a bill.

It is up to one man to decide whether California, America’s most populous state, will legalise assisted suicide – its Governor, Jerry Brown. Bill ABX2-15 has sailed through the legislature and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

The pressure on Mr Brown is enormous, with both sides of the intensely contested issue deluging him with information, arguments and emotional pleas. “This bill remains opposed by groups representing people living with disabilities, cancer doctors, people advocating for the poor and uninsured and faith based organizations,” said Tim Rosales, spokesperson of Californians Against Assisted Suicide. On the other side, state Sen. Lois Wolk, a co-author of the bill, said, “I am proud to be a part of this historic moment. No longer should terminally ill individuals in California be forced to suffer needlessly in their final days when a more compassionate option is available.”

The bill will automatically become law unless the Governor vetos it. However, it is very difficult to know how Mr Brown will vote. “You’d need some kind of séance to figure out what he’s going to do,” Jack Citrin, director of the Institute of Government Studies at UC Berkeley told Time magazine. “He plays his cards very close to the vest.”

Mr Brown was once a Jesuit seminarian and he is still spiritual. But no one is quite sure whether he regards himself as a Catholic. “He’s essentially a former seminarian, but when you ask if he’s Catholic now, he goes into the parsing of the word and what that means,” says Citrin.

“One thing that’s clear, he’s not going to make this decision based on political pressures,” says, a political science professor at UC-San Diego, Thad Kousser. “This is a guy who quotes philosophers at cocktail parties. His moral compass is complex and he’s not going to be looking over his shoulder at the polls.”

The Governor has until October 11 to make up his mind. If the bill become law, California will become the fourth state to legalise assisted suicide, joining Oregon, Washington and Vermont. 

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