California Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday signed a bill to streamline the assisted suicide process for terminally ill patients who wish to end their own lives.
The bill will slash the current 15-day waiting period for patients to get the lethal drugs to a mere 48 hours. The law also requires health care providers to post their physician-assisted suicide policies on their websites.
The new rules around physician-assisted suicide will go into effect next year. The law was co-authored by two Democratic state lawmakers, Assemblyman Jim Wood of Santa Rosa and state Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman of Stockton.
Advocates for assisted suicide hailed the governor’s support of the bill.
“We cannot thank Gov. Gavin Newsom enough for his support of this compassionate act,” said the president and CEO of Compassion and Choices Action Network, Kim Callinan, in a statement.
“With his signature, eligible terminally ill adults will soon be able to more easily access the End of Life Option Act without needless suffering and unnecessary roadblocks,” Callinan said.
Assisted suicide for terminally ill adults has been legal in California since 2016 after former Gov. Jerry Brown signed the California End of Life Option Act, which allows such patients to self-administer lethal drugs.
About a third of close to 400 terminally ill patients who asked for the assisted suicide drugs died as they waited the 15 days, according to a 2018 study by Kaiser Permanente Southern California.
Newsom has a personal history with assisted suicide.
In a 2018 New Yorker profile, the governor appeared to admit to helping his own mother commit assisted suicide back in 2002 after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in her fifties. The piece reveals:
In May, 2002, his mother decided to end her life through assisted suicide. Newsom recalled, “She left me a message, because I was too busy: ‘Hope you’re well. Next Wednesday will be the last day for me. Hope you can make it.’ I saved the cassette with the message on it, that’s how sick I am.” He crossed his arms and jammed his hands into his armpits. “I have P.T.S.D., and this is bringing it all back,” he said. “The night before we gave her the drugs, I cooked her dinner, hard-boiled eggs, and she told me, ‘Get out of politics.’ She was worried about the stress on me.”
Tessa Newsom died at 55 at her home in San Francisco in May 2002, when her son Gavin was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Assisted suicide was a felony in California at the time.
Last month, Newsom won handily in a highly-anticipated recall election, a Republican attempt to oust him as California governor.
“‘No’ is not the only thing that was expressed tonight,” Newsom said as early results showed him winning. “I want to focus on what we said ‘yes’ to as a state: We said yes to science, we said yes to vaccines, we said yes to ending this pandemic.”