The California legislature passed a bill that will make it legal for doctors to prescribe suicide medicines for terminally ill patients.
The state Assembly approved the bill with a 42-33 votes, while senate passed it with 23-14.
The End of Life Option Act now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who is a former Jesuit seminarian. He can approve or veto the bill within 30 days. If he fails to take any measure within the stipulated time frame, the bill will automatically become a law from January next year, according to media reports.
The Act will allow those patients who have been told by the doctor that they will not live more than six months to opt for physician-assisted suicide. The patients will have to give one written and two oral requests, and provide proof of mental competence.
A similar version of the Act failed in the Assembly about two months ago. However, senators reintroduced physician-assisted suicide in a special legislative session which was originally called to discuss matters regarding Medi-Cal by Governor Jerry Brown.
The bill was passed by a 13-member committee with a 10-2 vote, with one lawmaker absent.
The bill was brought to the legislature about 10 months after cancer patient Brittany Maynard ended her life after relocating to Oregon where lethal life-ending prescriptions are legal.
Many doctors, secular and religious NGOs have protested the assisted suicide.
Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez wrote in an online op-ed that he was "deeply" disturbed by the developments, and expressed concern that it would "allow doctors to help their patients kill themselves."
"Lawmakers did not have any chance to consider the deeper issues raised by end-of-life care in the state - the cost of treatments, especially the cost of cancer medications; insurance practices that limit access to hospice care and physicians' options in providing adequate pain relief; the impact of this legislation on the poor and other underserved populations," he continued.
"And make no mistake, it will be these most vulnerable populations who are going to suffer from this legislation... Already, we know that poor families, African Americans, Latinos and immigrants do not have access to quality health care and they have limited treatment options when they face a serious or terminal illness."
"I'm not going to push the old or the weak out of this world, and I think that could be the unintended consequence of this legislation," said Senator Ted Gaines (R-Roseville).
Maynard posted a YouTube video before her suicide from prescribed drugs on November 1, 2014, saying, "How dare the government make decisions or limit options for terminally-ill people like me."
Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis), a co-author of the bill said, "Eliminate the needless pain and the long suffering of those who are dying."
The California Medical Association no longer opposes the bill. But, the organizations still firm in their opposition against physician-assisted suicide include the American Medical Association, Californians Against Assisted Suicide, American College of Pediatricians, American Geriatrics Society, American Nursing Association, California Family Alliance, California Disability Alliance, California Catholic Conference, Berkeley Commission on Disability, and Autistic Self Advocacy Network.