CA End of Life Option Act
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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding California's End of Life Option Law
(Right to Die Law or Physician Aid in Dying)
Friends, we will keep you as up to date on developments as we can. There is still a lot not known.
WHEN DID IT GO INTO EFFECT?
June 9, 2016.
WHO QUALIFIES UNDER THE LAW?
The requirements of the law are:
- You must be 18 years of age or older.
- You must be able to make and communicate health care decisions.
- You must be a California resident, verified with a California Driver License or California Identification Card, voter registration or tax return.
- You must have a terminal illness—a disease that will, determined by reasonable medical judgment, produce death within six months.
- You must make 3 voluntary requests, two oral (at least 15 days apart) and one written, which must be signed by two witnesses.
- You must sign a "final attestation" form before ingesting the drug, stating that you are fully informed of the consequences and alternatives. You can change your mind at any time and decide to NOT take the drug.
- You must be able to swallow the medication yourself. Injection is not permitted.
You will not qualify under the act if you are not of clear mind and are not capable of making the request, orally and in writing.
WILL I LOSE MY LIFE INSURANCE BENEFITS IF I TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS LAW?
No. The death certificate will indicate that you died from an underlying illness.
HOW MANY DOCTORS ARE REQUIRED?
Two; an "attending physician," who writes the prescription, and a "consulting physician," who confirms the diagnosis, prognosis and the patient's capability to make an informed decision. A doctor does not have to be present at death.
HOW WILL I FIND A DOCTOR?
Our first recommendation would be to talk to your own doctor. Do this early in case your doctor is unalterably opposed to participating. If that happens you will have time to look for another doctor.
This article on the Death With Dignity website gives excellent advice about approaching doctors. Don't expect an enthusiastic YES from your doctor, but be wary if s/he is rude, changes the subject. If your doctor says, "NEVER," you need to find a willing one.
We know that the following systems will NOT participate in this law:
Our understanding is that Kaiser healthcare systems will have specialists to help you navigate the law.
- Veterans Administration
- Catholic healthcare systems
- All California Tenet Hospital Systems, including Desert Regional, JFK in the Coachella Valley and Hi-Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree
- Eisenhower Medical Center
Even if a healthcare system does not object to participating in the law, individuals within the system have the option to not participate.
SHOULD I STILL PLAN TO KEEP HOSPICE IN MIND IF I USE THE LAW?
Yes. It is possible that good hospice care will make it unnecessary to end your life yourself. We hope hospices will be responsive to our members' needs and wishes. Brittany Maynard chose not to have hospice because her symptoms, which could not be relieved, were causing her suffering. Be sure to find out, before enrolling in any hospice, what its pollicy is on the End of Life Option Act .
IF I QUALIFY, DO I JUST TAKE A PILL?
The physician can prescribe any medication s/he wants for this purpose, but commonly it is a barbiturate, or a mixture of drugs. The drug may come pre-prepared. If not, someone may empty the 100 capsules into water and mix it for you, but you must ingest it yourself. It is bitter. You must drink it quickly to prevent falling asleep before you have ingested the proper dose. Other drugs may be added to prevent nausea and vomiting. The cost for these drugs can vary from $450 to $3500. They are not covered by Medicare, although it is expected that Medi-Cal will cover a portion of the cost.
HOW CAN I HELP?
We need volunteers to line up speaking engagements, to talk to members, and to enlarge the work of our board. We need funds to provide training for doctors and other medical personnel and to bring qualified speakers to educate local professionals.
California Hospital Assocation detailed information on End of Life Option Act. Required forms are included.
Preparing For The California End Of Life Option Act: How To Get Started If You Think You Might Qualify, by Carol Parrot, MD, April 27, 2016
California Request for Aid-in-Dying Drug to End my Life in a Humane and Dignified Manner.
Other forms, including interpreter's declaration.
How's the Law Working So Far ?
The first person in San Diego to Take Advantage of the Law ?
Ojai woman with ALS takes advantage of California's End of Life Option Act
But, it is not so easy.
And sometimes difficult to find a doctor.
California Dept. of Health Report, first six months of the End of Life Option Act
And, a group is waging a legal fight against the law.
And this lawsuit
- where it is alleged UCSF doctors and social workers gave a terminal woman assurances that they would support her wish for a peaceful death, but backed out at the last minute. This case is horrifying.
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