California’s Right-to-Die law: the facts
A repeal effort led by Seniors Against Suicide failed. The group only collected 200,000 signatures – a fraction of the 365,880 needed to get the measure on the ballot
End of Life Option Act also makes right-to-die available to Medi-Cal insured
By TANU HENRY, Contributing Writer
Updated Mar. 10, 2016 By TONY BEAR
SACRAMENTO (CBM) —Beginning June 9, 2016, Californians facing terminal illness will be able to choose how and when they will die.
The special session convened to address various health care measures, including the End of Life Option Act, ended Thursday, Mar. 10. That means the “Right-to-Die Law” as it was famously known, will no longer be in limbo.
“This development is great news for terminally ill Californians because they soon will have the option to end unbearable end-of-life suffering by taking prescription medication to die gently in their sleep,” said Toni Broaddus, California campaign director for Compassion & Choices, one of the main advocacy groups backing the law. “We are very thankful to Gov. Brown and state lawmakers for responding to the voices of dying Californians who want some comfort and relief during their final days.”
When Gov. Jerry Brown signed the End of Life Option Act into law on Oct. 5, 2015, he empowered doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to Californians diagnosed with terminal illnesses.
If he were in that situation, the governor wrote, “It would be a comfort to consider the options offered by the Right-to-Die legislation.”
Supporters of the law praised him for giving California residents with terminal illnesses the option to “die with dignity.” A Field Poll showed 65 percent of Californians support the law.
Some lawmakers who opposed the bill argued that terminal illness diagnoses often lead to depression which might influence a patient to make the decision to end his or her life.
Opponents also raised concerns that the law puts California on a slippery slope that could lead to a number of problems, including an increase in suicides and inequality in the quality of health care available to the dying based on how much money they have.
Because Medi-Cal limits the treatments it pays for, patients ensured by the publicly-funded health insurance will have less options than those with private insurance to explore treatments that may prolong their lives than other citizens who pay for private insurance.
Some facts about California’s new Right-to-Die law:
- The patient must be a resident of California
- The patient must be “mentally competent” but external or emotional factors like depression are excluded
- The patient must make two verbal requests 15 days apart, followed by a written request witnessed by two people – including one non-relative
- The patient must self-administer the drug
- Two doctors must agree about the patient’s medical diagnosis and mental competency before making the prescription
- The law applies only to a patient who has been diagnosed as having six months or less to live
- The patient must also sign a form at least 48 hours before taking the medication confirming the choice to die was made under their own free will
Compassion & Choices has undertaken a bilingual campaign to help with educating the entire community. The group has set up a hotline (1-800-893-4548) and a website where patients, pharmacists and doctors can get more information about the law.
Compassion & Choices has also created a free conduit for doctors to consult with other doctors who have experience with administering right-to-die options. That number is 1-800-247-7421.
The Right-to-Die Law was sponsored by Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton; Sen Bill Morning, D-Carmel; and Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis.
A repeal effort led by Seniors Against Suicide failed. The group only collected 200,000 signatures – a fraction of the 365,880 needed to get the measure on the ballot.
California modeled its bill after a similar 1997 Oregon bill. Under the Right-to-Die law in that state, doctors have written 1,327 death prescriptions in 18 years. Only 468 people have opted out and chose to die natural deaths.
Being the most populous state in the U.S., when California passed its Right-to-Die law, one in 10 Americans became eligible for medical assistance in dying.
Other states with existing right-to-die laws are Vermont, Oregon, Washington and Montana. Pundits expect Maryland and New York to be the next two battlegrounds for Right-to-Die laws. New Mexico’s supreme court will hear arguments for and against similar legislation this month.
On Oct. 11th, Gov. Brown vetoed another end-of-life legislation, “The Right to Try” bill. It would have allowed experimental drugs and medical devices not yet approved by the Federal Drug Administration to be available to terminally ill Californians. It was co-authored by Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier; and Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula.
California Black Media.