California Senate Committee Rejects Bill that Threatened Terminally Ill Californians’ Access to Medical Aid in Dying
Compassion & Choices commends committee for protecting End of Life Options Act
The California Senate Health Committee rejected legislation by State Senator Mike Morrell today that would make it harder for terminally ill Californians to access medical aid in dying under the End of Life Option Act. The bill, SB 1336, would have added invasive and unnecessary reporting requirements to the End of Life Option Act. Committee members voted six to two, with one abstention, to reject it, protecting terminally ill Californians’ access to medical aid in dying.
The End of Life Option Act, enacted into law in 2015, already contains significant safeguards. The Act allows for a terminally ill adult, who has six months or less to live and is mentally capable of making their own healthcare decisions, to request from their doctor a prescription for medical aid in dying. The requirements that SB 1336 sought to add to the End of Life Option Act would have deterred physicians from participating in the law and it would have raised even more barriers for patients wanting to access it.
Among the needless mandates in SB 1336 are two provisions that are not even included in the time-tested, 20-year old Oregon Death with Dignity Act, the model for the California End of Life Option Act. SB 1336 would require patients to justify why they want to use the law verbally and in writing and would mandate the doctors who participate in the law to identify their medical specialty.
“The End of Life Option Act should not be amended to make access to medical aid in dying harder for patients who have just months or weeks to live. The Senate Health Committee did the right thing today by protecting this law that gives terminally ill adults the option to end unbearable suffering and die peacefully in their sleep,” said Kat West, national director for policy and programs for Compassion & Choices.
In January, the California Assembly Select Committee on End of Life Health Care met for its first hearing on the progress of implementation of the End of Life Option Act. Compassion & Choices was recognized for the organization’s work not only for helping pass the law, but for its educational outreach and expertise in implementing the End of Life Option Act. Takeaways from that hearing included that the law was working as intended, but that the process for terminally ill Californians to access the law was burdensome.
Dying people should get to spend their last days with their loved ones, not filling out paperwork, responding to intrusive questions, or desperately searching for a doctor all to satisfy invasive government curiosities. “Senator Morrell’s bill is a thinly veiled attempt by opponents of medical aid in dying to make it more difficult for patients to use the End of Life Option Act and to gather data that they believe will help them to overturn the law entirely,” concluded West.
Compassion & Choices estimates that 500 people have been able to access the End of Life Option Act since its implementation in 2016. All the major, secular healthcare systems in the state have supportive policies in place for patients who want to access the law. Compassion & Choices lists medical facilities and hospices with policies on its Find Care Tool at: compassionandchoices.org/find-care.