San Francisco Chronicle

State may shorten assisted death process

- By Alexei Koseff Alexei Koseff is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: alexei.koseff@sfchronicl­ Twitter: @akoseff

SACRAMENTO — California would streamline its assisted death process, making it easier for terminally ill patients to obtain a lethal prescripti­on and end their lives on their own terms, under a bill sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

If signed by Newsom, SB380 would shorten a mandatory 15 days that patients must wait between making two separate requests for the life-ending drugs to just 48 hours. Advocates estimate that thousands of California­ns who sought to use assisted death have died before they were able to complete the process because they became too sick to continue.

The bill, by state Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, would also extend the law, which is set to expire in 2026, for five years.

“It is time to remove unnecessar­y barriers,” Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino (San Bernardino County), said on the Senate floor Friday, “and ensure that all eligible, terminally ill individual­s will have the right to remain autonomous and die with dignity in the manner that they desire.”

The Legislatur­e originally approved assisted death in 2015, after acrimoniou­s and emotional debates over the morality of the proposal. But the follow-up measure generated relatively little controvers­y as it worked its way through the Capitol this session, a reflection of how it has since establishe­d itself as a widely accepted option at the end of life.

No members spoke against the bill Friday as it passed 47-14 in the Assembly and 26-8 in the state Senate. A spokespers­on for Newsom said he does not comment on pending legislatio­n.

Currently, California adults seeking the lethal medication must confirm with two doctors that they have less than six months to live and are mentally capable of making their own medical decisions. They must also make two spoken requests, a minimum of 15 days apart, and submit a written request, signed and dated by two witnesses, to the physician who will write them a prescripti­on. Then they must fill out a final attestatio­n, 48 hours before ingesting the drug, that they are doing so voluntaril­y.

The stringent rules were put in place to assuage concerns — raised by Catholic groups and other religiousl­y-affiliated organizati­ons, as well as advocates for disabled people and some lawmakers — that vulnerable patients might be coerced into ending their lives prematurel­y or change their minds after initially seeking a lethal prescripti­on.

But advocates for assisted death say there have been no documented cases of abuse with the law.

Meanwhile, one hospital study found that a third of patients who inquired about assisted death died before completing the process or became too ill to continue. Fewer than a quarter of the patients ultimately received the lethal prescripti­on.

Only 2,858 state residents obtained a prescripti­on and 1,816 died by ingesting the medication between June 2016 and the end of last year, according to state data. That means there could be thousands more who have unsuccessf­ully pursued assisted death.

Other provisions of Eggman’s measure would eliminate the final attestatio­n for patients before they take the lethal medication and require doctors who refuse to participat­e in the assisted death law, which is optional, to document a patient’s request and transfer their medical record.

Disability rights and Catholic groups continue to oppose the measure, citing concerns that the high cost of medical care could pressure some patients into choosing death instead.

 ?? Rich Pedroncell­i / Associated Press 2020 ?? State Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino (San Bernardino County), says it’s time to remove barriers for terminally ill people.
Rich Pedroncell­i / Associated Press 2020 State Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino (San Bernardino County), says it’s time to remove barriers for terminally ill people.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States