Physician-Assisted Suicide Legalized in California

California's Gov. Jerry Brown signed a controversial law permitting physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs in cases where a patient has six months or less to live.

Despite opposition from some physicians' groups and advocates for the disabled, California Gov. Jerry Brown today signed a bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide.

The law becomes effective Jan. 1, 2 016 and will make California the fifth state to enact such a measure.

The governor had not indicated what his position would be and appeared to have wrestled with the moral and legal issues the measure raises.

It is known as the "End of Life Option Act.".

"I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain," Brown said in announcing his decision today. "I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn't deny that right to others."

The impetus for the bill came from the death of 29-year-old cancer patient who moved to Oregon from California last year so she could take her own life with h elp from doctors.

The law, which will e xpire after 10 years unless extended, requires that two physicians agree on the fact that the patient is terminally ill and has only months to live.

It makes it a felony to pressure a patient into requesting a lethal dose of drugs for the purpose of suicide.

It was strongly opposed by some religious groups and by the American College of Physicians.

That group had pressed Brown to veto the measure, saying it would make patients feel their doctors were abandoning them, and that it is already legal for physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs if they are needed to relieve suffering in terminally ill patients.