CALIFORNIA’S lawmakers are moving slowly to implement a bill legalising doctor-assisted dying. Even so, for residents of the most populous American state who are terminally ill and want a doctor’s help to cut short their suffering, the wait has been protracted. In October 2015 California’s governor, Jerry Brown, said he would not veto a bill that state lawmakers had passed the previous month. In a short open letter he said that he put the right of Californians to decide according to their own consciences ahead of his own religious beliefs. Yet that was not the end of the story. Mr Brown supported the bill via a special legislative session called to discuss (among other things) how the state should pay for doctor-assisted dying. His assent meant little until that session ended; 90 days after it adjourned, California’s proposal would come into effect.
The extraordinary legal session ended on March 10th; doctor-assisted dying will thus be allowed in California from June 9th. (With strict safeguards: two doctors must agree that a patient has less than six months to live, and the patient must have undergone rigorous questioning to make sure that he or she is of sound mind and really wants to die.) Things are moving quicker now that date has been set: on March 30th the state’s senate health committee voted to pass a bill on to the senate’s appropriations committee that would establish a free telephone helpline providing information to those considering taking their lives with the support of physicians.