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End of Life Option Act to take effect June 9 in California



March 16, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: End of Life Issues Patient Care Patient Education 

When the California legislature adjourned a special session on health care last week, it started a 90-day countdown to the implementation of the physician aid-in-dying law (ABX2 15) that was adopted last year. The law will take effect on June 9.


As written, the law requires two physicians to agree, before prescribing the drugs, that a patient has six months or less to live. Patients must be able to swallow the medication themselves and must affirm in writing, 48 hours before taking the medication, that they will do so.


In an effort to help physicians and patients navigate the End of Life Option Act, the California Medical Association (CMA) has published new legal guidance in a question-and-answer format intended to help physicians and patients understand this new complex law. Throughout the 15-page document, both straightforward questions as well as those without answers yet are included. CMA acknowledges that the resource will evolve as the law is implemented.


“As physicians, there are a lot of questions about requirements under the new law, required documentation and forms, requests for the drug, consulting physicians and so on,” said CMA President Steven E. Larson, M.D., MPH. “There certainly will be areas that evolve as we look to best practices in areas like which drugs to prescribe, but this is a resource to help us all navigate the new landscape.”


CMA's health law library is the most comprehensive health law and medical practice resource for California physicians, containing On-Call documents with up-to-date information including current laws, regulations and court decisions related to the practice of medicine. On-Call documents are generally a benefit for CMA members and are available for sale to the public; however, On-Call document #3459, "The California End of Life Option Act," is free through CMA’s website.


“CMA was fielding calls from not only our members, but the general public about what the End of Life Option Act means and how it will impact care moving forward,” said CMA General Counsel Francisco Silva. “This is a complicated issue, and both physicians and patients should have access to answers that help further the patient-physician relationship.”


CMA removed longstanding opposition to physician aid-in-dying last May and took a neutral position on the End of Life Option Act, ABX2 15.


CMA encourages Californians to think and talk with loved ones about their wishes for end-of-life medical care before a serious illness or injury occurs. CMA has developed a number of guidelines, forms and other resources to assist providers, patients, and loved ones with making important end-of-life decisions.

Contact: CMA legal information line, (800) 786-4262 or legalinfo@cmadocs.org.

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