Comprehensive Survey Shows Californians Across All Demographics Support the End of Life Option Act

Three in 4 Californians Support the Option of Medical Aid in Dying
October 31, 2019

Compassion & Choices commended a new comprehensive statewide survey commissioned by the California Health Care Foundation for its commitment to understanding Californians’ views and experiences of serious illness and end-of-life care. 

The survey shows wide-ranging support for expanded end-of-life care options including the End of Life Option Act, the state’s medical aid-in-dying law. The End of Life Option Act gives terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to request, obtain and self-ingest medication to die peacefully in their sleep if their suffering becomes unbearable.

Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman, who sponsored the End of Life Option Act said, “This new data is significant in showing how widespread and sustained support for the End of Life Option Act is. Across race and income, Californians want the full range of end-of-life options.”

Key findings regarding what Californians want at end-of-life include: 

  • Three in 4 Californians surveyed support the End of Life Option Act, the California state law that gives some terminally ill adults the option to take life-ending medication prescribed by a physician. 
  • About 9 in 10 Californians without a serious illness reported that they would like as much information as possible from their health care provider if they had a serious illness. Results were consistent across income levels and racial/ethnic groups
  • About 4 in 5 Californians surveyed said they would want to talk with their doctor about their wishes for medical treatment toward the end of life. Older adults, black respondents, women, and white respondents were most likely to say they would definitely want to talk with their doctor about their wishes.
  • Many survey respondents reported that their loved ones did not pass away in their preferred location. Nearly 2 in 3 respondents reported that their loved ones would have preferred to die at home, while only 4 in 10 were able to do so. In contrast, nearly 4 in 10 died in the hospital, which was the preferred location for less than 1 in 10 loved ones.

“As most people will experience serious illness at some point in their lives, this research is an important step in understanding what Californians want and need most in end-of-life care,” said Samantha Trad, Compassion & Choices California State Director. “These results reinforce the fact that the majority of Californians want the option of a peaceful death in their final days of a terminal illness, and underscores the vital shift toward patient-driven end-of-life care.” 

Liz Knapp, a California resident whose father utilized medical aid in dying this past June, echoed the importance of expanded options at the end of life: “I am deeply grateful for the experience my family had with the End of Life Option Act. We had many conversations about death with my father Ed, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year. Dad got to write his own story and he didn’t have to struggle in his last moments.”

Chandana Banerjee, M.D., M.P.A., Assistant Clinical Professor specializing in Hospice & Palliative Medicine at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, said: “The significant improvement in people’s understanding of and desire for palliative care, hospice and medical aid in dying at the end of life is encouraging. We’re making strides in helping Californians address their values and priorities for the end of life.”

California is one of nine states — including Colorado, Hawai‘i, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington— as well as the District of Columbia, that have authorized medical aid in dying. Collectively, these 10 jurisdictions represent more than one out of five U.S. residents (22%) and have 40 years of combined experience using this end-of-life care option.

Compassion & Choices
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