California’s End of Life Option Act: What You Need to Know

California’s assisted suicide bill went into effect in June. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, an estimated 34,000 will inquire about receiving a lethal amount of prescription barbiturates to end their lives but only 1,500 will meet the requirements to receive them. Despite being in effect now uncertainty surrounding the law remains. Here is what it is currently known.

Requirements of the End of Life Option Act

There are a number of requirements and steps that must be taken before a terminally ill individual in California may legally end their life. The process is very strict and laid out below.

  • Mentally competent patients 18 years or older with six months or less to live may request a prescription for a lethal amount of barbiturates to end their life.
  • There must be a terminal diagnosis confirmed by two doctors.
  • Both physicians must agree the patient is mentally competent.
  • If there is a question of the patient’s mental state, the patient must be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist.
  • A patient must make two verbal requests to the doctor, at least 15 days apart, for the lethal prescription. A written request to the doctor is also required.
  • The doctor must discuss other end-of-life treatment options.
  • Patients must affirm 48 hours in advance of taking the lethal pills that they are taking the prescription of their own accord.
  • The patient must self-administer the prescription without assistance.

If a patient is unable to meet any of these requirements or follow any of these steps, they will not legally be able to end their life under this act.

Participation in the End of Life Option Act

There is no requirement that a hospital, doctor, and insurance company pay, fund or participate in the End of Life Option Act. This means that doctors may refuse to see patients coming to them for “end of life” drugs, hospitals do not have to inform patients of this option and insurance companies do not have to pay for these life-ending drugs. Many California hospitals, especially religious based ones, have already announced that they will not be participating.

Careful Consideration is Required

The End of Life Option Act provides a grim but humane option for Californians suffering from terminal illnesses. It is hard to say if such an option will expand across the country, but for now, it is an option in a handful of states. Such a decision is not to be made lightly and anyone considering ending their life under these circumstances should confer with their family members and those that they will be leaving behind.

From an estate planning standpoint, it is always important to have your affairs in order before you pass on. An experienced estate planning attorney can sit down with you and discuss the best way to prepare you and your family for the future. For an experienced estate planning attorney, contact the law office of Charles D. Stark. Schedule an appointment today at (707) 527-9900 or visit our office in Santa Rosa.

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