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California Medical Aid-In-Dying Law Marks One-Year Anniversary


Thursday, June 1, 2017   

LOS ANGELES – California's landmark aid-in-dying law took effect a year ago Thursday – and advocates say it is working as intended, giving mentally competent, terminally ill people the option to get a prescription for drugs that can end their lives peacefully.

There are no statistics on how many people have chosen this option, but more than 500 people have obtained the prescription.

Kat West, national director of policy and programs for Compassion and Choices, a pro-medical, aid-in-dying group, says many people get the medication but may not use it right away, or at all.

"Terminally ill people want to have the medication primarily for the sense of peace and the comfort that it brings and that they can choose to take if their suffering becomes unbearable," she states.

About 500 hospitals and more than 100 hospice organizations have adopted policies to support patients who choose this option.

About 80 percent of insurance plans cover the medication, including Medi-Cal, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter, Blue Cross Blue Shield and many local health plans.

Before its passage, the Roman Catholic Church and other groups opposed the California End-Of-Life Option Act, citing religious and moral concerns.

West says her group is launching a major public awareness campaign to clear up misconceptions, so people can feel more comfortable considering the option should the need arise.

"Medical aid in dying should become normalized and integrated into the standard of care in California so that everyone has meaningful access to this compassionate end-of-life care option," she stresses.

The bill was inspired by the story of Brittany Maynard, a California newlywed with a terminal brain tumor who had to travel to Oregon in 2014 in order to receive the medication and end her life peacefully.

California is one of six states, plus Washington, D.C., that permits the practice.

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