What is the California End of Life Option Act?
Nancy Williamson, Staff Attorney
The Aid-in-Dying Laws allow physicians to prescribe lethal medications for individuals who are terminally ill and want to end their lives. Oregon was the first state to pass aid-in-dying legislation, and California was the fifth state. There are now eleven states offering this option.
The California End of Life Option Act (EoLOA) went into effect on June 9, 2016.
Essentially, this law allows terminally ill patients to request a prescription for the Aid-In-Dying Drug. Before the implementation of this law, opponents were concerned that terminally ill patients may be pressured or influenced to choose this option.
The EoLOA provides safeguards to ensure that patients make this decision based on their own volition. The safeguards are as follows:
- The patient must be 18 years or older.
- Be a California resident.
- The patient has an incurable or irreversible disease, and a doctor has made a prognosis that the patient will die within six months.
- The patient must have capacity and able to make the medical decision.
- The patient must make the request for the aid-in-dying drug. The request cannot be made on behalf of the patient by using a Power of Attorney or Advance Health Care Directive.
- The patient must make two oral requests with a 15-day waiting period in-between each request.
- The patient must self-administer the aid-in-dying drug.
EoLOA was set to sunset on January 1, 2026, so proponents of the law introduced SB 380. This proposed law made the law permanent and decreased the waiting period from 15 days between requests to 48 hours.
The End-of-Life Option Act also made it voluntary for health care providers to participate. Health care providers or hospitals are not obligated to provide this treatment and can opt out of it. These health care providers are not liable for refusing to provide referrals to other health care professionals who prescribe the aid-in-dying drug.
This law is controversial, but it does offer those who are terminally ill the choice to request the aid-in-dying drugs, if they meet the criteria.