On June 9th, 2016, a new law went into effect in California. This law legalized the right of terminally ill Californians to end their life with the help of a physician.
The California Right-to-Die law was modeled after the controversial Oregon law but provides additional restrictions to avoid abuse. Under this law, a patient may request life-ending drugs from their doctor under certain conditions. The law protects the patient, the doctor, and anyone else involved from prosecution…if the restrictions are correctly followed.
These new terms require the patient to:
- Be an adult
- Be a California resident
- Have a terminal disease that will result in death in the next six months
- Have a sound mind and ability to make medical decisions
- Express a desire to receive the drugs
- Have the ability (physically and mentally) to take the drugs themselves
- Make two oral requests for the drugs at least 15 days apart
- Submit an additional written request signed by the patient and two witnesses, with some limitations as to the form and who can serve as a witness
- And sign a “final attestation” within 48 hours of taking the drugs
The doctor must determine if the patient meets the requirements of the law. If so, then a second doctor must confirm the finding. If either doctor believes the patient has mental issues, then a specialist must be brought in to determine the patient’s capacity to make this decision.
It should also be noted that insurance companies cannot require policy holders to use or not use these drugs.
It also needs to be noted that the person must request the drugs personally. The request cannot come from a Healthcare Agent or other person normally empowered to speak up for the patient.
The decision to end your life is an incredibly personal and difficult choice. It can be difficult for your loved ones to accept and understand. So discuss these options sooner rather than later, especially when they are not yet necessary. Then contact your estate planning attorney to legally document your wishes and ensure that your affairs are in order.