With a stroke of his pen, Gov. Jerry Brown more than tripled the number of people in America who will be able to ask a doctor to help them die if they are terminally ill and have no more than six months to live.

California’s new law, which the 77-year-old former Jesuit seminarian struggled with before signing, was modeled after legislation enacted in Oregon nearly 18 years ago. Whether they call it “death with dignity” or the “corruption of the medical profession,” “physician-assisted suicide” or “medical killing,” those on both sides of the end-of-life debate do agree on one thing:

That Oregon’s example offers important lessons for California and its 38.8 million residents, who in the near future will be able to ask a doctor to prescribe them a lethal dose of medication so they can hasten their own deaths.

George Eighmey, vice president of the Death With Dignity National Center, and Dr. William L. Toffler, national director of Physicians for Compassionate Care, weighed in on Oregon’s experience at this teachable moment for the most populous state in America.

The medication itself

When Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act first went into effect, doctors would prescribe pentobarbital and secobarbital, said Eighmey, a former state legislator. “But pentobarbital is no longer available. The manufacturer refused to send it to the U.S. because it’s used in the three-drug combination for death penalty cases.”