California's Right-to-Die Law Now in Effect

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California's Right-to-Die Law Now in Effect
California's Right-to-Die Law Now in Effect

THURSDAY, June 9, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- California on Thursday becomes the fifth and largest state in the country to allow terminally ill patients to end their own lives.

With the state's right-to-die law in effect, the percentage of terminally ill U.S. adults who can ask for medical aid in dying will increase from 4 to 16 percent, according to advocacy group Compassion & Choices. As many as 34,000 terminally ill Californians per year are expected to ask their doctors for information about the law, according to the group, and up to 1,500 prescriptions will be written each year. That's based on experiences in states that have already enacted similar legislation.

According to the end-of-life bill, the patient must be able to prove they are a resident of California, and have a physician who has diagnosed them with an incurable disease that is expected to end their lives within six months. They must submit two oral requests to their doctor at least 15 days apart, as well as one written request. The written request must be signed and dated in the presence of two witnesses. All three requests must be received by their doctor, not a designee or surrogate.

In addition, both the person's doctor and a second consulting physician must agree that the patient is capable of making medical decisions for himself or herself, is not being coerced, and has made an informed decision regarding the right to die. The patient's doctor is required to counsel him or her to have another person present when they take the fatal dose, to not take the drug in a public place, to keep the drug in a safe and secure place prior to use, and to consider participating in a hospice program.

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