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CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE APPROVES BILL TO IMPROVE END OF LIFE OPTION ACT

Senate Bill 380 Now Moves to the Governor’s Desk

(Sacramento, CA) Compassion & Choices Action Network hailed the passage of Senate Bill 380, which would improve the state’s End of Life Option Act. Today, with a vote of the 26-8, the California State Senate passed concurrence of SB 380, co-authored by Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) and Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa). The bill now moves to the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom. If the governor signs the bill, the law will become effective on January 1, 2022, making it easier for terminally ill Californians to peacefully end their suffering. 

“I want to thank the California State Legislature for their noble efforts to improve the End of Life Option Act for years to come,” said Kim Callinan, president/CEO of Compassion & Choices Action Network. “We strongly urge Governor Gavin Newsom to sign SB 380 so that terminally ill adults and their families can more easily navigate the process of accessing the End of Life Option Act without needless suffering and unnecessary roadblocks.” 

The End of Life Option Act gives mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to request prescription medication they can decide to take to peacefully end unbearable suffering. The legislation included a provision that would expire at the end of 2025 unless new legislation is passed. SB 380 extends that sunset provision to 2031.

SB 380 improves the End of Life Option Act by removing barriers to accessing the law that inevitably prolong suffering among terminally ill adults trying to obtain aid-in-dying medication. Most notably, the passing of the bill reduces the 15-day waiting period between oral and written requests to 48 hours. Research indicates that many patients previously died during this period, suffering unnecessarily, and not on their own terms. 

SB 380 would remove regulatory roadblocks to accessing the End of Life Option Act, which originally took effect in 2016, that impede or prevent hundreds of qualified terminally ill Californians from using medical aid in dying to peacefully end their suffering. It would make several important improvements to the California End of Life Option Act, including:

  • Reduce the mandatory minimum 15-day waiting period between the two oral requests for aid-in-dying medication to 48 hours for all eligible patients. (New Mexico’s governor signed similar medical aid-in-dying legislation into law on April 8 that requires a 48-hour waiting period between the time the prescription is written and filled.)
  • Healthcare systems and hospices would have to post their medical aid-in-dying policies on their websites, increasing transparency for terminally ill Californians who urgently need this information.

“By the time the doctors told my husband Chris Davis that he would die from bladder cancer, he had less than a week to live, so shortening the 15-day waiting period for medical aid in dying to 48 hours could made the difference between him dying peacefully and dying in agony,” said Ontario resident Amanda Villegas. “Tragically, my husband died with tubes draining various bodily fluids that protruded his stomach, kidneys, and chest. I plead with Governor Newsom to sign SB 380 into law, so no other terminally ill Californian has to needlessly suffer like my husband Chris did.” 

“For nearly a decade, I have endured painful treatments for terminal melanoma that has spread to my bones, lungs and brain,” said Matt Fairchild, a Catholic, 51-year-old, retired Army staff sergeant from Burbank who takes 26 medications to manage his symptoms. “While doctors say my condition is stable for the next 90 days, it could suddenly get dramatically worse, so reducing the 15-day waiting period for medical aid in dying to 48-hours is important to me. I pray Governor Newsom will sign SB 380 into law.”

Previously, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure in a 9-1 vote; the Senate Health Committee approved SB 380 in an 8-1 vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the measure 5-2 and the Senate passed the measure 26-8. The Assembly Health Committee passed the bill 10-3, the Judiciary Committee approved it 6-2, the Appropriations Committee passed it 10-4, and the Assembly passed the measure 47-14

A strong majority of people in all communities (Asian: 76%; Black: 70%; Latino: 68%; white: 82%) support California’s End of Life Option Act, according to a 2019 statewide survey commissioned by the California Health Care Foundation.

For more information, here is a fact sheet about SB 380.

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ABOUT COMPASSION & CHOICES ACTION NETWORK/COMPASSION & CHOICES

Compassion & Choices is comprised of two organizations that improve care and expand options at life’s end: Compassion & Choices (501(c)(3)) educates, empowers, defends, and advocates; the Compassion & Choices Action Network (501(c)(4)) focuses exclusively on legislation, ballot campaigns, and limited electoral work.

Paid for by Compassion & Choices Action Network

CompassionAndChoices.org/California


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