On June 9, 2016, California’s End of Life Option Act (the “Act”) will go into effect. The Act authorizes an adult who is suffering from a terminal disease and meets other qualifications to request an aid-in-dying drug that may be prescribed for the purpose of ending his or her life. California is the fifth state to enact a form of an aid-in-dying law. Similar laws are in place in Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont.Key Requirements and Considerations:
Even if a health care provider elects to prohibit participation under the Act, it may not prohibit its employees, independent contractors, or other persons or entities from: diagnosing whether a patient has a terminal illness; informing the patient of the medical prognosis, or determining whether a patient has the capacity to make decisions; providing information to a patient about the Act; or providing a patient, upon the patient’s request, with a referral to another health care provider for purposes of participating in the activities authorized by the Act. Furthermore, a health care provider may not prohibit its employees, independent contractors, or other persons or entities from participating in the Act while on the premises that are not owned or under the management or control of the provider, or while acting outside the course and scope of the participant’s duties as an employee or independent contractor of the health care provider.
Physicians and health care facilities should familiarize themselves with the requirements of the Act prior to the June 9 effective date, so that they are able to respond to patient inquiries and requests about their options under the Act. Licensed health care facilities that permit their employees, independent contractors and other health care providers to engage in activities permitted by the Act should enact policies and procedures to ensure that requests for an aid-in-dying drug are processed in compliance with the Act. In the event that a licensed health care facility chooses to opt out of the Act, the facility must provide notice to its employees, independent contractors, and other health care providers of its decision to opt out.