Dying Legal In California

It’s not just about using the medication. It’s about having the option available.

Most people who request aid-in-dying medication do not use it. While the request must go in at least 16 days before a prescription can be written, it is not filled until within 48 hours of planned ingestion of the lethal medication. Much like the late referrals to hospice, many people do not know they are terminal until it is too late to have alternatives.

When a patient decides to use medical aid in dying, they will fill out a final attestation within 48 hours of ingesting the lethal medication that affirms their desires and are capable of self-administration. Then, and only then, will doctors prescribe the compounded medication that cause the patient to fall into a coma and die comfortably in their sleep. The cause of death on the death certificate will be the underlying disease, not suicide, by law.

The aid-in-dying law facilitates a better dying experience regardless of whether they qualify for and choose aid in dying, simply by enabling physicians and patients to have that conversation. Most patients are profoundly relieved by the simple fact that aid in dying is available, and that empowers them to prepare themselves and their families.

The law requires that patients are terminal with less than six months to live, can take the medication on their own, and have the capacity to make their own medical decision.

Therefore, people with diagnoses like Alzheimer’s disease do not qualify. This assures no one is coerced or chooses aid in dying when they don’t have the capacity to make the decision for themselves.

Medical aid in dying is now legal in Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Montana, Colorado, and Washington, DC. For the majority who request aid in dying, the simple knowledge of autonomy at the end of life has proved to relieve suffering.

In addition, evidence shows that it reduces the number of people who die in hospitals, a death most people likely would not choose — and increases use of palliative care and hospice.