Trusts and Estates

Ca. Trs. & Estates Quarterly 2018, Volume 24, Issue 1

CALIFORNIA END OF LIFE OPTION ACT

By Naomita Yadav, Esq.* and Rebecca E. Renzas, Esq.*

On October 5, 2015, Governor Brown approved the End of Life Option Act (the "Act"), making California the fourth state to authorize treating physicians to prescribe lethal medications to patients with terminal diseases. The Legislature passed the Act following 25 years of lobbying by "death with dignity" proponents. It faces significant public controversy, including one pending lawsuit.1 Trust and estate attorneys who discuss and provide advice on issues related to end of life care should be familiar with the Act’s primary features and ongoing evolution. This article provides an overview of the Act, explains its constitutional and statutory underpinnings, details its deficiencies, and ends by discussing current legal challenges and the current state of "death with dignity" laws.

I. SUMMARY OF THE ACT

The Act is codified in California Health & Safety Code Sections 443, et seq. It allows qualified individuals to obtain aid-in-dying drugs from a physician.2 "Qualified individuals" are adult California residents who: (i) have a terminal disease, (ii) have mental capacity to make medical decisions, and (iii) voluntarily express the wish to obtain a prescription for aid-in-dying drugs.3

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