In a press conference held Wednesday in the State Capitol, Senators Bill Monning and Lois Wolk were joined by the family of Brittany Maynard and a diverse array of supporters as they made their announcement of the End of Life Option Act, a bill to authorize the medical practice of aid-in-dying in California. Also joining the two members on stage were co-authors of this legislation, including principal co-authors, Assemblymember Susan Talamantes-Eggman and Senator Mark Leno.
“The time is right for California to advance the conversation about end of life options,” said Senator Monning. “ We are working together to establish a process that honors a terminally ill patient’s right to make informed decisions about dying, including an individual’s option to reduce suffering by taking aid-in-dying medication.”
The legislation, Senate Bill 128, is modeled on legislation in Oregon and other states where aid in dying has been proven to be effective and successful.
The bill includes the following:
· Only qualified, terminally ill adults who are residents of California may request and obtain prescriptions from their physician for medication that the patient has the capability to self-administer. A person may not qualify solely because of age or disability.
· In order to receive the prescription the terminally ill patient is required to have two physicians confirm the patient’s prognosis of six months or less to live and that the patient has the mental competency to make health care decisions for him or herself.
· As in Oregon’s legislation this bill requires two oral requests to be made to a physician, a minimum of 15 days apart, in addition to one written request with two witnesses attesting to the request before the prescription can be written.
· Protections for physicians, pharmacists and healthcare facilities from civil or criminal liability, and from professional disciplinary action, if they fulfill a terminally ill, mentally-competent individual’s request.
· Voluntary participation by doctors, pharmacists and healthcare facilities.
· Safeguards against any coercion of patients by establishing felony penalties for coercing or forging a request.
· A patient’s right to rescind the request.
· The attending physician of the terminally ill patient who wishes to engage in the End of Life Option Act is required to discuss feasible alternatives or additional treatment opportunities, including, but not limited to comfort care, hospice care, palliative care and pain control.
The announcement of this bill comes two months after the death of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard. In the final weeks of her life, Brittany, a Californian, partnered with Compassion & Choices to share her story in hopes that it would help make aid-in-dying an open and accessible medical practice in her home state and throughout the country. Aid-in-dying offers mentally competent, terminally ill adults the option to request a prescription for medication they can use to end their dying process if it becomes unbearable.
“Having aid-in-dying as an end of life option provided great relief to Brittany,” said Dan Diaz, Brittany’s widower. “It enabled my wife to focus on living her last days to the fullest, rather than having to worry about dying in agony from terminal brain cancer. I promised Brittany I would do everything in my power to fulfill her mission to make this end of life option available to all Californians.”
Debbie Ziegler, spoke about her mission to keep her only daughter’s legacy alive.
“Brittany fought to the end for expanded availability of end of life options in California,” she said. “I will make my daughter Brittany proud by standing up and telling her story even if my voice shakes. Even if I choke back tears. I hope that no other Californian has to go through what Brittany did.”
“It’s time for terminally ill patients in California to have the same right to die peacefully in comfort as now allowed in other states,” said Senator Lois Wolk, “In the end, how each of us spend our last days of life, if we are fortunate to have a choice, is a deeply personal decision. That decision should remain with the individual, as a matter of personal freedom and liberty, without criminalizing those who help to honor our wishes. This law will honor that freedom, with appropriate protections to prevent any abuse.
Medical aid-in-dying is authorized in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico. More than half a dozen other states are also considering similar legislation this year including Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Nevada, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
National and state polls consistently show the vast majority of Americans across the demographic and political spectrum want to maintain their right to choose their medical treatment at the end of their life.
“Support for this law runs across all demographic categories, from every ethnic, religious, and economic background,” said Senator Wolk, “It is not a partisan issue. It is about the most personal freedom there is and guaranteeing terminally ill Californians will have a right to exercise this option if they believe it is right for them.”
Robert Olvera, M.D., recalled the death of his 25-year daughter, Emily Rose, who died in April 2014, after a four-month agony from a rare form of leukemia.
“As a Catholic and as a father, I never lost hope, but as a physician, I knew what was in store,” said the Santa Ana physician. “My daughter, Emily Rose, was confined to a bed, blind, she struggled to breath with excruciating headaches that no medication could alleviate. She suffered horribly as I sat next to her, unable to make it better.”
Jennifer Glass from San Mateo has been living with advanced lung cancer since January 2013.
“We all seek the best quality of life possible, regardless of how much time we have left,” she said. “We expect and demand options across all aspects of life because they influence quality of life. This has to include end of life.”
“This legislation is long overdue for California residents who have a terminal diagnosis and are concerned with the unknown suffering and physical effects from the disease,” stated Senator Monning. “No patient should have to leave his or her home and family to relocate to another state to exercise this option in order to control the terms of his or her imminent death.”
Article is from a press release from Senator Wolk’s office