California Passes Right to Die Law


New Law Permits Terminally Ill Patients to End Their Lives.

Known as the End of Life Option Act, California’s newest law decriminalizes self-end to one’s life and allows terminally ill people to end their lives humanely.  The law becomes effective on January 1, 2016.

Read the Governor’s Letter.

After signing the new law, the Governor sent the Legislature a heartfelt letter explaining how he grappled with that decision.  It is short and well worth a read.   You can find it here: Governor’s Letter on Right to Die.

Details of the New California Right to Die Law.

To take advantage of the End of Life Option, several criteria must be met, including the following:

  1. The patient must:
    1. Be an adult
    2. Be a California resident as proven by one of the following:
      1. California driver license
      2. California state-issued i.d.
      3. Voter registration
      4. Proof of ownership or lease of real property in California
      5. Filing of California state tax return
    3. Have a terminal illness, as certified by an attending physician and a consulting physician
    4. Have mental capacity to make his or her own healthcare decisions. (An agent appointed under a “living will” or advance healthcare directive cannot consent for an incapacitated patient.)
    5. Fully understand his or her medical condition, options, and the nature of the act
    6. Voluntarily request “a prescription for an aid-in-dying drug”
  2. The patient must be able to self-administer the aid-in-dying drug
  3. The patient’s choice must be properly documented, evidencing that ALL of the following occurred:
    1. The patient orally requested the aid-in-dying drug
    2. The patient makes a second oral request no sooner than 15 days after the first request
    3. The patient makes a written request that is:
      1. Signed on a form prescribed by the law
      2. Witnessed by:
        1. Two witnesses
        2. Who sign at the same time that the patient signs
        3. At least one of whom is not related to the patient, employed by the patient, or be entitled to a portion of the patient’s property upon the patient’s death
        4. Neither of whom is the patient’s attending or consulting physician or mental health specialist
    4. The patient signs a final attestation certifying the patient’s choice, which must be signed no more than 48 hours prior to the patient’s self-administration of the drug
  4. The patient may have to undergo an examination by a mental health professional if the attending physician or the consulting physician feel there is any indication of mental infirmity, lack of understanding, or undue influence.

Common Questions

Can the patient change his or her mind?

YES. The patient may withdraw the request for an aid-in-dying drug at any time, orally or in writing and even if the patient is losing mental capacity.  Prior to dispensing the aid-in-dying drug to the patient, the physician must again ask whether the patient would like to withdraw the request.

Can the family be present?

YES.  If the patient consents, other persons (including family members and friends) may be present when the patient self-administers the aid-in-dying drug.  Mere presence is not a crime, provided that those present do not assist the patient in administering the drug.

Can I help the patient administer the drug?

NO.  Only the patient can administer the aid-in-dying drug.  No one — not even family, friends, or medical providers — may assist.  If the patient is unable to self-administer, then the End of Life Option is not available.  However,  it is permissible to help the patient prepare the drug for administration, as long as the actual administration is done by the patient alone.

I have an advance healthcare directive (living will).  Can I use that to direct my Agent to authorize use of an aid-in-dying drug? 

NO.  Only the patient can request the drug, the patient cannot be given the drug if the patient lacks mental capacity, and only the patient can administer the drug.

Do all doctors and hospitals have to allow the End of Life Option?

NO.  Doctors and hospitals may adopt a general public policy prohibiting the use of aid-in-dying drugs on their premises.

You can read the full text of the new law here:   California Right to Die Law

About Helene P. Dreyer Koch

Estate Planning Attorney (Wills, Trusts, Probate) Indian Wells, California * 760.360.2400
This entry was posted in Consider This, Healthcare Power of Attorney, Wills and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to California Passes Right to Die Law

  1. What a great outline of this new law, and how it protects family members from liability. I’m so glad you bring up the fact that family members cannot assist in a patients death. It’s a great provision in the law so that terminally ill individuals can make end-of-life decisions for themselves while not forcing their loved ones into an uncomfortable corner.

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