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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Governor of California Signs Doctor-Assisted Death Bill for Terminal Patients

What are your rights concerning ending your life when it has become unbearable as a result of terminal illness?

The question of a patient's "right to die" has been controversial for a very long time. A few days ago, on October 5, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the End of Life Options Act into law. There are now five states in which physicians may legally prescribe a lethal dosage of medication to terminally ill patients who request it.

There are certain stipulations that must be met in order for lethal medication administration to be legal in the state. These include that the patient making the request must:

  • Be terminally ill
  • Be a competent adult, capable of making medical decisions
  • Voluntarily ask for and self-administer the drug
  • Be diagnosed as terminal by two independent physicians
  • Make two oral requests for the medication, at least 15 days apart
  • Make a witnessed written request and sign it 48 hours before taking the medications

Several groups, including right-to-life groups, religious groups, and groups advocating for the disabled, have opposed the measure. It has been determined that individual hospitals and doctors may refuse to offer the lethal medications.

A recent survey demonstrates that, despite vigorous opposition from the Catholic Church, certain ethnic groups, such as Hispanics, and the American Medical Association, the majority of people polled, even members of these opposing groups, supported the new law. Fifty-five percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Democrats responded favorably to the freedom to choose death under extreme circumstances of pain, incapacity and terminal illness.

Governor Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, reported that he had carefully read opposition documents and spoken to many trusted advisors before coming to the decision to support this law. Eventually, he reports, he decided that if he were at the end of his life and in severe pain without hope of survival, he would want the option of self-administering lethal medication and that he did not believe the state should deny that option to anyone in such a dire situation.

In considering our own mortality, as we all have to at some point, we are inevitably confronted with some major decisions concerning the distribution of our assets and the protection of our loved ones. If you are interested in being proactive in regard to your estate planning, please contact one of our experienced and compassionate attorneys at The Law Offices of Berge & Berge, proudly serving the South Bay area of California at (408) 389-6980.


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