California Governor Jerry Brown’s End of Life Option Act went into effect on June 9th, which allows terminally ill patients to request life-ending medication from their doctors provided they meet the following criteria:
- Two or more doctors have agreed the patient has six months or less to live
- Patients must be able to swallow the medication themselves
- Patients must put their intentions to take the medication in writing 48 hours beforehand
California is the fifth state to permit this option at the end of life, joining the likes of Vermont, Oregon, Washington, and Montana.
As reported by NPR, while some view the landmark legislation as offering terminally-ill patients the utmost in compassionate care, others worry about the ramifications of making suicide a social institution.
As senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Maryiln Golden voiced concerns that the new law lacks safeguards to protect patients from abusive heirs or caregivers 'steering' them toward assisted suicide. In addition, there are currently no measures in place to prevent a depressed patient from “doctor shopping” in order to obtain a prescription (which already happens with non-lethal drugs).
The potential for abuse aside, many are welcoming the news as a long-overdue option for anyone suffering from a terminal disease.