Euthanasia Laws under California End of Life Option Act

Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and Withdrawal of Life Support

Euthanasia, also called mercy killing, is the act of taking a person’s life when they no longer wish to live, typically because of a terminal illness or some other debilitating condition. Euthanasia has, for a long time, remained illegal in all states, but several states, including the golden state, allow physician-assisted suicide.

California law describes euthanasia as mercy killing and distinguishes it from assisted suicide in that another person kills the patient or person. Assisted suicide is a term used to describe the process of helping an individual end their life; a role only limited to physicians. Withdrawing life support also differs in that the person who is in pain cannot survive without medical assistance. The necessary medical care may be anything from artificial ventilation, electrical pulses to keep a heart beating or nutrients delivered through an IV.

California End of Life Option Act is an act that was signed into law in 2015. The law allows terminally ill patients expected to die within six months to end their lives with the assistance of a physician. For a person to be eligible, the decision to end one’s life must be an informed one that is based on a medically confirmed diagnosis. Additionally, the patient has to obtain a mental health screening to confirm that they can make such a decision.

A person who requests lethal drugs in California must be a resident of the state who can establish their residency through a state-issued ID, voter registration, proof of property ownership or lease in the state, or the filing of a California tax return in the most recent year.

California law allows a person to request a prescription for life-ending medication only if they are at least 18 years old, a California resident, mentally capable of making and communicating health care decisions, and diagnosed with a terminal disease that will lead to death within six months.

As a way to comply with the California law, physicians may not prescribe lethal drugs as requested by the patient until after three requests, at least 15 days apart, are made. Doing this allows people or patients to change their decisions if they feel better within this period.

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