California was the most recent state to adopt the End of Life Option Act, codified at Health & Safety Code section 443. It basically allows a competent patient who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness to seek and obtain a prescription for drug to be self administered. The law is effective on June 9, 2016.
Aid-in-dying legislation has passed in Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Montana. Doctors in those states are allowed permitted to prescribe drugs to terminal patients that will end their lives. The patients must meet certain requirements and undergo a set process to receive the medication.
California’s procedures, like the other state’s, seek to protect terminal patients from rash decisions or over-anxious relatives. While patients may designate agents to make all sorts of health care decisions on the patient’s behalf, an agent is not able to request aid-in-dying drugs on behalf of a patient, and therefore these drugs cannot be requested through an advanced healthcare directive.
The Act allows doctors, medical groups and hospitals to opt out of the law. Most, if not all, religious hospitals are expected to reject the law. Physicians are not required to prescribe life ending drugs to patients. The California Medical Association dropped it’s opposition to the bill. According to news reports, the state of California will pay for the costs of the drugs to be utilized.
According to the Act, the “aid-in-dying drug” means a “drug determined and prescribed by a physician for a qualified individual, which the qualified individual may choose to self-administer to bring about his or her death due to a terminal disease.” The Act does not describe what the appropriate drug might be.
To summarized the requirements, in order for a person to seek aid-in-dying drugs, they must meet the following criteria:
Upon filling the aid-in-dying prescription, the patient must complete a “Final Attestation for an Aid-in-Dying drug to End My Life in a Humane and Dignified Manner” form 48 hours prior to self-administering the drug.
Developments in the law should be closely monitored as it is likely that that state regulators may develop more detailed and specific standards when facing a terminal patient seeking end of life drugs.
By Matt Kinley, Esq, LL.M. Mr. Kinley represents health care clients in Southern California. If you have any questions, please contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.