California passed a type of “Right to Die” law in 2016, becoming the 5th state in the nation to allow terminally ill patients the right to end their own lives with doctor-prescribed drugs. However, many conditions must be met before a terminally ill patient is prescribed the lethal drugs to end their own life.
The new law caused great controversy as to the definition of “assisted suicide”, and there have been many debates on the subject. Many feel there are too many “obstacles” for a terminally ill patient, such as requiring two physicians to be involved, a 15-day waiting period between the requests to each doctor, and the requirement that the patient be able to administer the lethal dose of drugs themselves. Many argue that these obstacles slow down the process, which can mean prolonged pain and suffering for many terminally ill patients.
Generally speaking, most people are pleased this law finally passed in California. However, not all doctors or facilities view this new law in a favorable light. Some religion-affiliated hospitals have taken a firm stance against the new law and do not allow their physicians to prescribe the lethal drugs to patients. Many doctors remain uncomfortable with the practice as well, making it difficult for terminally ill patients to find doctors who will assist.
There are some doctors, like Dr. Bob Uslander, located in Del Mar, California, a former ER specialist and now owner of his own palliative care practice has come to consider it a privilege to help people gain control and dignity in their final stretch of life, a statement he made to the San Diego Union Tribune. “I actually find it to be one of the most gratifying things that I have ever done in medicine and in life – being able to give somebody that gift at the end of their journey and to help them find the ultimate peace and healing,” he said.
Another obstacle involves the cost of the lethal drugs. It is reported that such drugs cost $600 to $3500 and up, depending on the drug prescribed. Many insurance companies will not cover drugs used for this purpose, and for some terminally ill patients, the drug cost is prohibitive.
It is still to soon to tell whether many California residents will utilize this new law, or merely a few. It is also too soon to tell whether the obstacles, cost, and difficulty of finding facilities/doctors will present significant roadblocks. However, during the past year, there have been some terminally ill patients who have been successful in utilizing the law, with the outcome they desired.
www.latimes.com “111 Terminally Ill Patients Took Their Own Lives in First 6 Months of California Right-to-Die Law.”(Accessed June 27, 2017) www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-end-of-life-act-20170627-htmlstory.html.
www.sandiegouniontribun.com “A Year after Assisted Suicide Became Legal in California, Hurdles Remain." (Accessed June 3, 2017) www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/health/sd-me-end-life-20170702-story.html.
www.ocregister.com “A Year after It Passed, California’s Right-to-Die Law Still Faces Challenges.” (Accessed June 12, 2017) www.ocregister.com/2017/06/07/right-to-die-law-one-year-later-challenges-remain/.