End of Life Option Act Passes out of Senate Judiciary Committee

Legislation carried by Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) and Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to expand the end of life options available to Californians passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 5 to 2 vote today.  Senate Bill (SB) 128, the End of Life Option Act, will allow a mentally competent adult in the final stages of life due to a terminal illness to request aid-in-dying medication from a physician.  SB 128 now moves on to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“It should be a fundamental human right for people with terminal diseases to determine the quality of their final days based on their own personal beliefs,” Senator Monning said.  “SB 128 continues to gain support, which illustrates that public sentiment is in favor of expanding access to end of life options.  Californians with terminal diseases should have the autonomy to approach death on their own terms.”

“We believe that this voluntary option is a compassionate addition to the existing continuum of care that may be used by modern medicine at the end of life. SB 128 ensures that we honor the freedom to have end-of-life options, but with appropriate protections to prevent any abuse,” said Senator Wolk. “After the successful passage out of the Senate Judiciary Committee today, we are one step closer to ensuring that this fundamental right is protected for those facing end of life in California.”

The End of Life Option Act will establish criteria for a patient who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness that must be met prior to being prescribed medication.  SB 128 is modeled on current Oregon law and on statute in other states where the aid-in-dying option is currently provided.  The bill includes the following:

  • Only adults with terminal diseases 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.
  • Two separate physicians must confirm the patient’s prognosis of six months or less to live and that the patient has the mental competency to make their own health care decisions.
  • Two oral requests are required by a patient with a terminal disease to a physician, a minimum of 15 days apart, in addition to one written request, with two witnesses attesting to the request
  • Medication must be self-administered.
  • Establishes felony penalties for coercing or forging a request.
  • Requires attending physician to discuss feasible alternatives or additional treatment alternatives with the patient, including, but not limited to, comfort care, hospice care, palliative care, and pain management.
  • Protections for physicians, pharmacists, and healthcare facilities from civil or criminal liability, and from professional disciplinary action, if they fulfill a terminal, mentally-competent individual’s request.
  • Voluntary participation by doctors, pharmacists, and healthcare facilities
  • No insurance policy may be conditioned upon or affected by a person choosing to request aid-in-dying medication.

Medical aid-in-dying is currently authorized in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico.

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