California Gov. Jerry Brown just signed a bill that could bring comfort to terminally ill people in the final moments of their lives — and may also generate a lot of controversy. On Monday, Brown signed a bill that will grant certain Californians access to lethal drugs, giving them the right to take their own lives. In a moving message to Californians, Brown discussed his reasons for pushing the bill — which some are calling the "End of Life" act — through. He promised he had taken opposing viewpoints, including religion-based ones, into consideration. "In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death," Brown wrote. "I do not know what I would do if I were dying in excruciating and prolonged pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to consider the options afforded by this bill." Three other states — Washington, Oregon, and Vermont — have already legalized the practice. In Montana, it is decriminalized. Many groups, including the Catholic Church, object vehemently to patients' employment of lethal drugs.
"People who request death are vulnerable. They need care and protection. To offer them lethal drugs is a victory not for freedom but for the worst form of neglect," the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote in a 2011 memorandum on what it calls "assisted suicide." Brown is a lifelong Catholic. Until now, he was unwilling to reveal his position on the use of life-ending drugs. The bill first passed in California's congress in September. An earlier version failed, following heated debate. One of the fiercest advocates for the right to die in California has been Debbie Ziegler, whose 29-year-old daughter, Brittany, moved to Oregon to take advantage of that state's "Death With Dignity" permissions. "'I'm not leaving children, Mom, but I am leaving a legacy and if you are feeling strong and want to work on this I would like you to keep my legacy alive,'" Brittany reportedly said, before she died. Today, Ziegler can see that legacy carried out in California.