Changes to CA's Medical Aid-in-Dying Law Spur 47% Jump in Use
Monday, August 14, 2023
A law shortening the waiting period for medical aid in dying has led to a 47% jump in prescriptions for the medication - according to a new report from the California Department of Public Health.
In 2021, lawmakers amended the End of Life Option Act to cut the mandatory waiting period between the two required oral requests for the medication from 15 days down to 48 hours.
Samantha Trad, national director of advocacy with the group Compassion & Choices, said the change provided relief to hundreds more patients.
"In 2021, 863 prescriptions were written," said Trad. "Last year, with the new changes in effect, 1,270 prescriptions were written."
The data also showed that almost 4 out of 5 terminally ill patients waited less than 15 days between the two verbal requests.
A 2018 study from Kaiser showed that 21% of patients who requested to use the End of Life Option act died during the 15-day waiting period.
Dr. Chandana Banerjee - associate professor of hospice & palliative care and dean of graduate medical education with the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte - noted that some terminally ill patients deteriorate quickly, which can make the 15-day waiting period untenable.
"In those 15 days, they can lose consciousness, they can lose the ability to swallow," said Banerjee. "And at that point, they don't become eligible anymore to participate in the End of Life Option Act because you have to have the ability to ingest on your own."
Some hospitals do not offer the full range of end-of-life care options, citing religious objections.
Advocates are calling on health-care systems and hospices to follow the law and post their medical aid-in-dying policies on their websites.
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