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Right-To-Die Bill Passes Senate; Unknown How Gov. Brown Will Vote

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - California's right-to-die bill passed the state senate on a 23 to 14 vote ahead of a legislative timeline.

SB 128 would allow doctors to provide lethal drugs to patients with less than six months to live. It goes to the Assembly next.

If the bill passes, what happens after that?

At the beginning of the session, it didn't look like this bill would pass. There was strong opposition from Republicans. And on both sides, this was a very emotional debate.

Nine republican lawmakers spoke against the bill, many citing personal stories of medical crisis and struggling with illness. They asked fellow lawmakers to not give the sick a reason to give up hope.

"What kind of society are we? Don't believe we're in a disposable one when it comes to short cutting the natural course of life," said a state lawmaker.

Backers stressed it's matter of personal choice.

"This bill is not a mandate. It will not force me if it is not my belief to do this. It gives me the right," said another lawmaker.

SB 128 is modeled on a law Oregon adopted in 1997. California lawmakers have attempted similar proposals in the past, but failed. Four other states allow for medically assisted death including Montana, New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington.

Just two weeks ago, the California Medical Association dropped its opposition. Supporters say that action helped, but so did the powerful story of Brittany Maynard, the Bay Area woman with brain cancer. She gained national attention last fall when she moved to Portland to take advantage of Oregon's law.

Her husband and mother were in the Senate chamber. Her mother was holding a photo of her daughter, who passed away last November, when the final vote was announced.

Ayes had 23 and no's had 14.

"The Senate vote, I feel, is an affirmation of what Maynard started," said Dan Diaz, Brittany's widower.

"I'm so proud of the senators who gave it thought and really wrestled in their thought and came up with a yea vote," said Deborah Lynn Ziegler, Brittany's mother.

SB 128 now goes to several committees, then to the assembly. Brittany's family and supporters are hopeful it will pass.

Governor Jerry Brown, will have to make the final decision. He has not weighed in on the issue. As to what happens if it passes, senators today say they do not have a crystal ball and can't answer that yet.

This isn't the first time California has tried to legalize doctor assisted suicide. Tonight, we got answers about California's other right-to-die legislation. Proposition 161 appeared on the ballot in 1992 and lost 54 to 46 percent. The "California Compassionate Choices Act" was introduced in 2005 and was defeated in the senate judiciary committee the next year.

The State Assembly introduced a new version in 2007, but it never went to a full vote.

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