Things to Know About California’s Aid-in-Dying Law

open hand with multiple pills

In June 9, Californians will already be able to request prescriptions from their physicians for lethal medications.

“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” Gov. Jerry Brown wrote about signing the End of Life Option Act in October last year. “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 wouldn’t deny that right to others.”

According to the law, you can request for the prescriptions if you are a California resident, at least 18 years of age, and terminally ill with no more than 6 months to live. Once you are deemed terminally ill and mentally competent by two physicians, you can ask for prescriptions from any licensed medical doctor from California. While it is easy for many to confuse this with euthanasia, the law prohibits referring to the practice as euthanasia, mercy killing, assisted suicide, or homicide. Unlike in euthanasia wherein the physician administers the medication or treatment to end the patient’s life, in aid-in-dying the patient ingests the medications him/herself.

It should be noted that physicians are not required to comply to this law, nor refer patients to doctors who will provide a prescription. Also, insurance companies are not required to cover this treatment. Private insurance companies are still figuring out how to implement the law. Medi-Cal, the state’s health plan for low-income residents, on the other hand, will cover the treatment. However, both Medi-Cal and insurance companies are barred from informing the patients that the treatments are covered due to a controversy in Oregon, the first state to allow physicians to prescribe lethal medications.

If the state Legislature will not act to renew it, the law will expire in 2026.

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