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Advocates Press for Improvements to CA's Aid-in-Dying Rules

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Monday, July 5, 2021   

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A bill to speed up the process for terminally ill patients to access aid-in-dying medications will be heard tomorrow in the State Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 380 would shorten the waiting period between the two oral requests for the prescription that the patient must make from 15 days down to two.

Samantha Trad, senior campaign director for the nonprofit Compassion and Choices Action Network in California, said a lot of patients don't ask for it until it's too late.

"15 days may not sound very long, but when you're imminently dying, it's an excruciatingly long time," Trad contended. "And we know from Kaiser and other health-care systems that about 30% of terminally ill Californians who want the option of medical aid-in-dying die during the mandatory 15-day waiting period."

The bill is opposed by the Catholic Church and by some disability-rights groups. To be approved for the prescription, a patient has to have a terminal diagnosis with six months or less to live, from two different doctors. The person also must be of sound mind and be able to ingest the medication on their own.

The bill also would require hospitals and hospices to post their aid-in-dying policies on their website.

Amanda Villegas' husband Chris Davis died of cancer in 2019 before he could access the prescription, because his caregivers gave him wrong information.

"They blatantly lied," Villegas asserted. "They told us it was completely illegal in Southern California, that we would have to go up to a Kaiser in northern California in order to access a prescription. In Chris' state, that wasn't possible."

The current End of Life Option Act, which took effect in 2016, will sunset in 2025. The new measure would make the law permanent.

A study released last week by the California Department of Public Health found so far, almost 3,000 patients have obtained the prescription and about two-thirds of them used the medicine.

Usage remains low among people of color; 87% of people who utilized the law are white.

Disclosure: Compassion and Choices contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Health Issues, Senior Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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