National Group Defends CA End-of-Life Option Amid Federal Lawsuit
Wednesday, May 3, 2023
A national nonprofit organization is speaking out about a federal lawsuit filed last week against California officials, challenging the state's End of Life Option Act.
The plaintiffs claim that the revised law, which took effect last year, discriminates against people with disabilities by violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
CEO of the group Compassion & Choices, Kim Callinan, pointed out that a disability alone doesn't qualify a person for medical aid in dying.
She added that a national poll shows it is an end-of-life care option people believe should be available.
"The current lawsuit that came forward makes claims that are inconsistent with what the data demonstrate," said Callinan. "We know that eight out of ten people with a disability want and support the option of medical aid in dying."
Ten states now authorize doctors to offer mentally sound, terminally ill adults the option to request prescription medication they could choose to take - to die gently in their sleep, if their suffering becomes unbearable.
Studies show the most common diagnosis among terminally ill people who qualify for medical aid in dying is cancer. Since January, bills to authorize medical aid in dying have been introduced in 14 states.
Dr. Chandana Banerjee - an associate professor who teaches palliative medicine, and a physician who practices medical aid in dying, both at City of Hope National Medical Center - said it's important that people understand what medical aid in dying is and isn't.
People with disabilities who would qualify for the law must have a prognosis of six months or less to live - and Banerjee said even then, they still may not be eligible.
"There are several other guardrails and eligibility criteria that these dying patients must meet, and then follow a multistep process in order to get the prescriptions filled," said Banerjee, "contrary to the belief no one really gets to wake up one morning and access medical aid in dying."
The law also requires an attending physician to advise the patient about "feasible alternatives or additional treatment options, including, but not limited to, comfort care, hospice care, palliative care and pain control."
Studies from nine jurisdictions where medical aid in dying is authorized show that more than a third of terminally ill adults who receive prescriptions for medical aid in dying don't take the medication.
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