What is the End-of-Life Option Act?

California's End of Life Option Act, which went into effect in 2016,  is a law that provides a legal option for terminally ill individuals to have some control over the timing and manner of their death and allows terminally ill adults in California to request and receive medical aid in dying. It was modeled after similar laws in other states like Oregon and Washington.

Under this law, individuals who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and have a prognosis of six months or less to live can request a prescription for medication that they can self-administer to hasten their death.  It provides a legal option for terminally ill individuals to have some control over the timing and manner of their death.  To be eligible, patients must be mentally competent, make two oral requests, and submit a written request in the presence of two witnesses at least 48 hours prior to being given the medication for ingestion.

The law also includes safeguards to ensure that patients are making informed and voluntary decisions. It requires physicians to inform patients about all available end-of-life options, including palliative care and hospice, and to assess the patient's mental capacity to make this decision. The law does not require physicians to prescribe the medication, and healthcare providers and facilities can choose whether to participate.Medical aid in dying is a practice that allows terminally ill patients to end their lives with the help of a physician. 

 

I believe that medical aid in dying is a compassionate way to end suffering, and maintain the right to self-determination, autonomy, and dignity.

 

Medical aid in dying has a long and complex history. The first state to legalize it was Oregon in 1994, followed by Washington in 2008 and Montana in 2009.  Since then, several other states have passed similar laws, including Vermont, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine, and New Mexico. However, medical aid in dying remains illegal in many other states and countries.

The practice has faced significant legal challenges over the years.  In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there is no constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide. However, the court also ruled that individual states have the right to regulate the practiceSince then, several legal challenges have been brought against medical aid in dying laws in various states, but most have been unsuccessful.

The California passed the End of Life Option Act has faced several legal challenges, but it remains in effect.

 

As of 2023, medical aid in dying is legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia. These states include California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and WashingtonIn Montana, medical aid in dying is legal due to a court ruling.  Medically assisted deaths are illegal in all other states and U.S. territories.

 

Related, Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED) is a practice in which a person intentionally chooses to cease eating and drinking with the goal of hastening their own death. This is typically done in the context of end-of-life decision-making, often by individuals who are suffering from a terminal illness or are experiencing unbearable suffering. VSED is considered a form of passive euthanasia and is a complex and ethically debated issue.

VSED has gained attention in discussions around end-of-life choices, assisted suicide, and palliative care. The acceptability and legality of VSED vary by region, and the ethical considerations surrounding it continue to be a topic of debate among healthcare professionals, ethicists, and policymakers.