On October 5, 2015, Governor Brown signed the End of Life Option Act into law. The law requires that two doctors determine that a patient has six months or less to live before the lethal drugs can be prescribed. Patients also must be mentally competent to make medical decisions and be able to swallow the medication themselves and must affirm in writing, 48 hours before taking the medication, that they will do so.
But the law, when passed, wasn’t to become effective until 91 days after the adjournment of a special legislative session on health care, and no one knew exactly when that was going to happen. Now we do. That session ended on March 10, 2016, which means that the law will be effective as of June 9, 2016.
Since this is a new law and a new policy for the state, it is going to take time for both the public and doctors to fully understand how the process is going to work and what the legal requirements are for compliance.
Here are a few resources available to help families better educate themselves about how the End of Life Option Act will work.
Compassion and Choices, one of the advocacy groups that supported the law’s passage, has has set up a hotline (1-800-893-4548) and a website where patients, pharmacists and doctors can get more information about the law.
The California Medical Association has published legal guidance for doctors and patients in a question-and-answer format that is available for free from their website.
The California Academy of Family Physicians has published A Family Physician’s Guide to the End-of-Life Option Act for family doctors that includes detailed information on such things as:
- Who can make a request for aid in dying;
- What are the proper procedures to follow in making such a request;
- Who can properly respond to such a request;
- The proper procedures that a physician must go through in complying with the request;
- How to document and report the procedure;
- What forms are required and where physicians can find them.
As more information becomes available, I’ll keep the blog updated with new resources.