On Tuesday, May 19th, Agudath Israel of California visited Sacramento to discuss Senate Bill 128, pending legislation regarding physician aid in dying. Under the current provisions of the bill, a patient who is diagnosed with six or fewer months to live and has the ability to take medication by themselves, could obtain a prescription for a drug or drugs to end their life, provided that an enumerated number of conditions are met. Agudath Israel has engaged the services of Jason Bryant of Bryant Government Affairs to help with this issue.

During the course of the day, Dr. Lebovics, Agudath Israel of California’s chairman of the board, and Mr. Bryant met with ten legislators in leadership positions, and had a lengthy discussion with the office of the bill’s primary author. In the discussions, they made clear Agudath Israel’s general religious opposition to the concept of physician-assisted suicide. At the same time, they pointed out that there are a significant lack of safeguards for patients in the proposed legislation and that some of the bill’s provisions conflict with basic medical standards.

Much was accomplished during the Capitol visit in that many of Agudath Israel’s proposed amendments were accepted. In addition, many of those legislators who, for philosophical reasons, support the concept of physician-aid-in-dying, now also share the concern that real safeguards be put in place before they would vote for this bill.

On June 4, the bill was passed by the State Senate by a 24-14 vote with numerous abstentions. Many of the aye voters noted that the bill still needs work regarding safeguards and expect that to take place in the State Assembly before the bill would come back to the Senate for concurrence.