End of Life Option Act -Supporting Death with Dignity in California-

End of Life Option Act

-Supporting Death with Dignity in California-

This article touches on California’s End of Life Option Act. McDowall Cotter, APC is a law firm located on San Francisco’s Peninsula in California.

Governor Brown formally signed the “End of Life Option Act” on October 5, 2015.  The Bill, codified as Health and Safety Code Sections 443 et seq., authorizes an adult who meets certain qualifications, and who has been determined by his or her attending physician to be suffering from a terminal disease, to make a request for a drug prescribed for the purpose of ending his or her life.  This legislation is set to take effect in early 2016.

It is important to note the specifics of the Bill, which set forth stringent requirements for those individuals seeking to utilize the End of Life Option Act.  In order to qualify under this Bill, the requirements specify:

  1. The individual must be 18 years or older, a resident of California, and have capacity;
  1. The individual must have been diagnosed with an incurable and irreversible terminal disease which will within reasonable judgment result in death within 6 months; and
  1. The individual must submit 2 oral requests and 1 witnessed, written request to his or her personal physician, which all 3 must be received directly by the physician. A consulting physician must then confirm diagnosis, prognosis and capacity.

If the individual seeking to utilize the End of Life Option Act qualifies under the requirements set forth above, additional measures then become effective with regard to the dispensing and taking of the medication.  These additional measures include:

  1. The medication must only be dispensed to the qualified individual, or a person expressly designated by the qualified individual with the designation delivered in writing or verbally to the pharmacist; and
  1. The qualified individual must have the physical and mental ability to self-administer the medication.

As one can see, the requirements in this Bill must be satisfied prior to obtaining the aid-in-dying medication, and it may be a lengthy process.  If someone is considering this as an option, they should begin the process as soon as possible following the terminal disease diagnosis as their physical and mental capacity is required to obtain and take the medication.  The qualified individual always has the option to change their mind later on, even after the prescription is filled.

Additionally, pursuant to the terms of the Bill no provisions in contracts, wills, or other agreements will be found valid with respect to the aid-in-dying medication.  Because an Advance Health Care Directive becomes effective upon a person’s incapacity, and a qualified individual must have the physical and mental ability to self-administer the aid-in-dying medication, an Advance Health Care Directive will not be found valid with respect to any provisions concerning the aid-in-dying medication.

For those friends and family members of the qualified individual, it is important to note that the Bill provides that no person present when the qualified individual self-administers the aid-in-dying medication will be subject to civil or criminal liability.  A present individual may prepare the medication on behalf of the qualified individual, so long as the qualified individual is the only person to administer the medication.

Furthermore, actions taken under this Bill shall not constitute suicide, assisted suicide, homicide or elder abuse under the law.  Death under this Bill is not suicide and health and insurance coverage shall not be exempted on that basis.  Furthermore, death under this Bill shall not have an effect upon a life, heath, or annuity policy other than that of a natural death from the underlying disease.

This new legislation is set to take effect in early 2016, at which time California will become the 5th state to allow qualified individuals to obtain aid-in-dying medications.

If you want to learn more on the End of Life Option Act contact us at:

2070 Pioneer Court
San Mateo, CA 94403
Tel 650-572-7933
Fax 650-572-0834

McDowall Cotter provides comprehensive legal services in three areas of practice: civil litigation; business; and wealth preservation. To learn more visit us at http://www.mcdlawyers.net. We are a San Mateo based law firm and for more than 50 years, McDowall Cotter’s chief objective has been to deliver exemplary legal services that are personalized, effective and efficient.