SAN DIEGO, Oct. 13, 2015 — California Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed SB-128, ushering in a new era for resident adults who are terminally ill.
California is among five U.S. states that have similar laws.
Known as the End of Life Option Act, it provides permission for a terminally ill adult to end his or her life with a medically prescribed drug.
The bill establishes specific forms, protocols and procedures to legally protect those who choose this approach to put an end to their suffering.
Prompted by the courage of brain cancer victim Brittany Maynard, who moved from California to Oregon to facilitate her own end-of-life journey, the topic ignited national discussion as she sought assistance in putting an end to her life and the suffering caused by her terminal disease.
California’s End of Life Option Action is very similar to Oregon’s end-of-life law, which assisted Maynard.
Brown, a Catholic who formerly studied at seminary to become a priest, struggled with supporting the bill and said the following upon its signing, published by Reuters: “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain…I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I would not deny that right to others.”
California’s law will go into effect for all adult residents on Jan. 1, 2016.
The law stipulates that a person is considered an adult at the age of 18 or older, must be deemed as having full mental capacity and be vetted by two physicians.
Once a medical diagnosis is confirmed and the disease is determined to be terminal, the patient is able to request an aid-in-dying drug to be self-administered.
Even if an aid-in-dying drug is approved for use, it is not required that it be taken.
Approval for the drug affords patients the opportunity to use it when they choose and does not preclude seeking additional forms of medical treatment and hospice and palliative care.
Built into the End of Life Option Act are legal protections that prevent any form of fraud, abuse, coercion and the like, which are punishable by law.
Commonly known as euthanasia, it is the “act or practice of ending the life of an individual from a terminal illness or an incurable condition,” according to http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/euthanasia.
As a highly polarizing and often controversial issue, the pros and cons of euthanasia have been debated by religious leaders, academics, politicians, members of the legal profession and others for many decades.
It is interesting to note, however, that passive euthanasia has been practiced for many years worldwide, since well before the recent passage of SB-128 in California.
According to Dr. Lynette Cederquist, professor of internal medicine at the University of California, San Diego, “Physician-assisted dying has been done surreptitiously…doctors may legally offer ‘terminal sedation’…a life-shortening dose of morphine-when intense physical suffering cannot otherwise satisfactorily be alleviated.”
The End of Life Option Act includes the stipulation that a terminal adult is considered by medical professionals to have only six months to live.
There is every plausible risk, however, that an anticipated death from a terminal illness might defy preconceived expectations and result in an extended timeline.
With simply no way to predict a definitive period of time in which a life will end, especially once considered terminal, SB-128 includes a provision that requires a terminally ill adult to have the capacity to weigh all aspects of the remaining medical and health care options prior to requesting an aid-for-dying drug and, upon approval, to have the ability to know if and when to use it.
For those adults who are medically determined to be at the end-of-life and who have been given up to six months to live, the ability to choose when the ceaseless suffering and progressive debilitation of illness will end is both comforting and compassionate.
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!
Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is a health care provider of over 30 years. As a featured “Communities Digital News” columnist, LifeCycles with Laurie Edwards-Tate emphasizes healthy aging and maintaining independence, while delighting and informing its readers. Laurie is an educator and a recognized expert in home and community-based, long-term care services.
In addition to writing for “Communities Digital News,” Laurie is the president and CEO of her firm, At Your Home Familycare, which serves persons of all ages who are disabled and infirm with a variety of non-medical, in-home care and concierge services.
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