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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Assisted Suicide in California: 7 Things Children of Aging Adults Need to Know

If you have an older loved one who has a terminal diagnosis, you might have concerns about your relative’s right to chooses Death with Dignity, also called physician-assisted suicide. A California elder law attorney can help you understand how California law applies to this sensitive situation. Here are 7 things that children of aging adults need to know about this issue.

What Children of Aging Adults Need to Know About Assisted Suicide

  1. California has the End of Life Option Act, ABX2-15 (AB-15), that legalizes self-administration of lethal drugs by terminally ill adults in California and lets them access medical aid in dying. Former Governor Jerry Brown signed the law in October of 2015, decriminalizing assisted suicide under specific circumstances. The law went into effect in June of 2016.
  2. Legislators followed the model of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, with a few modifications. Oregon’s Act has been in effect since 1994. California was the fifth state in America to enact physician-assisted suicide legislation. The first four states to do so are Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont.
  3. Initially, physicians in California opposed the legislation. In 2015, the California Medical Association (CMA) withdrew its objections after the CMA’s Council of Ethical Affairs recommended that they do so.
  4. California’s End of Life Option Act contains these requirements:
    • The individual must be over the age of 18.
    • The person must have the ability to administer the drugs to himself and have the legal capacity to make the independent decision to end his life. The decision and administration of the drugs must be entirely voluntary.
    • The patient must visit an attending physician and a consulting physician, and the visits must be at least 15 days apart.
    • The individual must visit a psychiatrist or licensed psychologist if either the attending or consulting doctor requests that he does so.
    • A physician must certify that the person has less than six months to live (estimated) due to a life-limiting illness and that the doctor discussed and considered other palliative options with the patient.
  5. The death certificate will make no mention of suicide. The official cause of death will be the original life-limiting illness.
  6. The law does not dictate which drugs to use in the process of an physician-assisted suicide.
  7. A California state court ruled in 2018 that the law was enacted in an unconstitutional manner because it got passed during a special session of the state legislature dealing with healthcare issues. Shortly after that state court decision, a state appeals court reinstated the legislation, saying that the challengers to the legislation lacked standing to take the case to court and that the state legislature acted appropriately when it passed the law. The California Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the state appellate court.

The subject of Death with Dignity is fraught with emotion. When your loved one has a terminal illness, it can help to learn about the available legal options.

Contact Our California Elder Law Attorney Today

Contact the experienced elder law attorneys at Horizon Law today. A California estate planning attorney can provide a compassionate explanation of our state’s assisted suicide laws and address other issues, like the estate planning documents that can protect the family.


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