There has been a very recent development in California’s End of Life Option Act. The Act is the law that permits terminally ill adult patients with capacity to make medical decisions to be prescribed an aid-in-dying medication if certain conditions are met. The law went into effect on June 9, 2016.
Last week, a judge in Riverside County ruled that the Act was passed illegally during a special session of the Legislature called by the Governor that was supposed to focus on specific health care issues. The ruling was not on the substance of the law which some of the law’s opponents have challenged, but solely on the grounds that the law was improperly passed.
On May 21, 2018, the California Attorney General filed an appeal of the lower court’s ruling arguing that it was within the Legislature’s authority to consider and pass such a law during the special session. The Attorney General has also asked that the law remain in force during the appeal. No ruling has yet been made by the appellate court. The case now awaits a ruling by the appellate court.
Under the existing law, to be eligible to request a prescription for the aid-in-dying drugs, one must be an adult, a California resident, have a diagnosis from his/her primary physician of an incurable and irreversible disease which will, within reasonable medical judgement, result in death within six months, be able to make medical decisions for themselves as determined by health professionals, voluntarily request a prescription for an aid-in-dying drug without influence from others and be able to self-administer (eat, drink, and swallow) the aid-in-dying drug.