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Medical Aid-in-Dying to Be More Accessible in CA

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Thursday, October 7, 2021   

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Mentally capable, terminally ill patients with less than six months to live will now have much easier access to medical aid-in-dying, thanks to a bill just signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Patients still have to get the approval of two doctors, but Senate Bill 380 shortens the waiting period between 2 oral requests for the prescription from 15 days to 48 hours.

Amanda Villegas, an advocate and widow of cancer patient Chris Davis who passed away soon after diagnosis in 2019 without being able to take advantage of the end-of-life care option, said his suffering -- and his family's -- was prolonged unnecessarily.

"He wanted other patients to not have to endure what he endured," Villegas recounted. "He told me, 'Don't stop. Show the photos, tell my story. Let it be known that this needs to change.'"

Groups opposed to the bill cite religious and moral concerns. A study from Kaiser found one-third of terminally ill adults who ask for medical aid-in-dying pass away before they complete the eligibility process. Advocates estimate since California's End of Life Option Act took effect five years ago, almost 1,400 people have died before obtaining a prescription.

The bill also requires hospitals and hospices to post their stance on medical aid-in-dying on their websites, so patients do not waste precious time trying to find out if their provider is willing to help them.

Kim Callinan, president and CEO of the Compassion and Choices Action Network, said she hopes other states will follow the Golden State's lead.

"This is a huge victory for the moment, for Californians and for really dying Americans in every state," Callinan asserted.

The bill takes effect Jan. 1. Nine other states and Washington D.C have passed medical aid-in-dying legislation.

Disclosure: Compassion and Choices contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Health Issues, Senior Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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