Death with Dignity. –  Many will recall the 29 year old Brittany Maynard who suffered from terminal brain cancer.  Brittany moved from California to Oregon where she chose to end her own life rather than continue in excruciating pain.  The “End of Life Option Act”, presently before the California Senate would allow for terminally ill resident of California to voluntarily end his or her own life by requesting “aid in dying” medicine prescribed by a physician and then self-administered by the patient.

Informed consent by the patient, verification of informed consent, and an opportunity for the patient to withdraw that consent is at the heart of how the legislation works.  Let’s examine the “End of Life Option Act”.

For there to be informed consent the patient must understand and acknowledge the relevant facts after being fully informed by his or her attending physician of the following:  the terminal diagnosis, the prognosis, the risks associated with taking the medicine, the probable result of death by taking the medicine, the possibility that the patient may choose at any time not to take the medicine, and the feasible alternative or additional treatment opportunities (such as comfort care) instead of taking end of life medicine.

The patient must make two oral requests, at least 15 days apart, and a written request to the attending physician.  The written request must be witnesses by two qualified witnesses who attest to the patient’s soundness of mind and voluntary request.

In addition to the attending physician, a consulting physician must also examine the patient, confirm the attending physicians’ terminal diagnosis and prognosis, and verify that the individual is competent, acting voluntarily, and has made an informed decision.

Once the medicine is delivered, the patient can either decline to use the medicine or proceed as planned and self- administer the medicine.

Brittany Maynard stated the case for why voluntary dying is very different from suicide as follows:  “For people to argue against this choice for sick people really seems evil to me,” she told PEOPLE MAGAZINE. “They try to mix it up with suicide and that’s really unfair, because there’s not a single part of me that wants to die. But I am dying.”

According to an LA Times editorial published on February 10, 2015, seventy percent of Californians support the legislation.  If the “End of Life Option Act is enacted, California would join Oregon, Vermont and Washington as states where terminally ill persons can end their own life.

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