Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Monday allowing terminally ill people in the nation's most populous state to take their own lives, saying the emotionally charged bill forced him to consider "what I would want in the face of my own death." Brown, a lifelong Catholic and former Jesuit seminarian, says he acted after discussing the issue with many people, including a Catholic bishop and two of his own doctors. "I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill," the governor wrote in a signing statement that accompanied his signature. The 77-year-old Democrat said he would not deny those comforts to others.
The statement was Brown's first comment on the bill, which makes California the fifth state to allow terminally ill patients to use doctor-prescribed drugs to end their lives. The measure applies only to mentally sound people and not those who are depressed or impaired. State lawmakers passed the bill last month. A previous version failed earlier this year despite the highly publicized case of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old California woman with brain cancer who moved to Oregon to end her life. In a video recorded days before Maynard took life-ending drugs, she told California lawmakers that the terminally ill should not have to "leave their home and community for peace of mind, to escape suffering and to plan for a gentle death." (But the Vatican called her death "reprehensible.")