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California Assembly passes controversial right-to-die legislation

The Senate will likely approve the bill

(ArturoYee / Flickr)

The California Assembly passed a bill on Wednesday that will give terminally ill patients access to life-ending drugs, reports the Associated Press. The End of Life Option Act now needs final approval by the Senate, which has until Friday to make a decision. If approved — the Senate is expected to endorse it — Governor Jerry Brown will have to sign it, making California the fifth US state to approve this kind of measure.

If approved, the bill will give terminally ill patients the option to end their lives legally. A previous attempt to pass a right-to-die bill in the state failed earlier this year, largely because of pressure from the Catholic Church. The Senate will likely pass the latest bill, but Governor Jerry Brown has yet to state how he feels about this issue; he was once a Jesuit seminary student.

The bill includes a number of patient protections

The End of Life Option Act bill includes a number of patient protections. For instance, patients must be physically capable of taking the medication themselves, and two doctors must approve the procedure. A patient who wants to take lethal medications must also submit a written request, which needs to be signed in front of two witnesses.

Still, some people who oppose the bill think that the law might lead to patients being forced into ending their lives. If the bill fails to become law, advocacy groups have said that they would try to include it as a 2016 ballot measure.