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End of Life Option Act

The law will give terminally ill adults in California the option to end their lives by swallowing lethal doses of physician-prescribed drugs. For a patient to receive the drug, two doctors must confirm the patient’s prognosis of six months or less to live and determine that the patient is mentally competent to make informed health care decisions. The patient must then make two oral requests 15 days apart, and one written request, to a physician for assisted death, with witnesses to all requests. The new legislation allows for organizations and physicians to ‘opt-out’ of dispensing end-of-life drugs.

St. Joseph Health has “opted-out” of the provisions of California’s new end-of-life law and will not participate in the aid in dying practice on our premises, as allowed by the legislation. This means dispensing end-of-life medications will not take place at St. Joseph Health. We believe physicians have an obligation to openly discuss patient’s concerns, unmet needs, feelings and desires about the dying process. It’s important to learn the meaning behind the patient’s question and attempting to respond to a patient’s concern can be a potent, therapeutic intervention.

In most cases, people wishing to use this option would do so in a home or other setting, and many hospitals in states where physician-assisted suicide is legal have also decided not to participate on their premises. Most patients who initially consider obtaining a lethal dose of medication do not persist with their requests when they feel their concerns are effectively addressed.

For additional information, please check out the End of Life Care FAQs page.

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