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California fifth state to allow terminally ill option to end own lives

California's End of Life Option Act will make the state the fifth to legally allow terminally ill patients to end their own lives. Starting June 9th, terminally ill citizens of California who have six months or less to live can request a doctor's prescription for medication to end their lives. California's aid-in-dying law is considered the most stringent of the other four states, and getting these prescriptions will be no easy feat.

The Act includes a multitude of administrative requirements that both patients and doctors must fulfill. The patient must make multiple requests for the prescription, both written and oral, and must be able to take the drugs themselves (without help) to qualify. Patients must prove they are a California resident, and two doctors must attest to the patient's diagnosis, prognosis, and ability to make medical decisions.

The law is voluntary, meaning anyone involved - patients, physicians, health systems, and pharmacies - can elect not to cooperate. Some healthcare providers have agreed to participate, such as Kaiser Permanente. However, federal law prohibits using federal money for these purposes, thus the United States Department of Veterans Affairs will be unable to help U.S. military veterans who utilize their healthcare services. According to the vice president of the Alliance of Catholic Health Care, none of the 48 Catholic and Catholic-affiliated hospitals in California will participate.

Those interested can seek guidance via Compassion & Choices online guides for consumers and doctors, the California Medical Association's website, and find more forms at the Medical Board of California's website.

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