The End of Life Option Act is Now Law

June 28, 2016

by Carolynn Peterson RN, MSN, AOCN, CHPCA, Executive Director

 Californians have been debating physician assisted suicide, euthanasia, right to die, and death with dignity for well over 20 years.  In 1997, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont were the first states to approve laws that supported a patient’s right to die.  With the governor signing Assembly Bill No. 15, End of Life Option Act, hospices across the state of California are deciding how they will respond.

California Hospice and Palliative Care Association came out with a Position Statement on Right to Die in March of 2015.  The statement reiterated the fundamental hospice philosophy; hospice values life and neither hastens nor prolongs the dying process.  Hospice organizations believe that people do have a right to self-determination, to excellent pain and symptom management, and a right to refuse unwanted medical intervention, allowing death to occur naturally.  When cure is no longer possible, hospice provides the essential knowledge and skills to support the patient and their loved ones, facilitating the relief of physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering for the terminally ill. Fortunately, the End of Life Option Act recommends attending physicians provide counseling on participation in a hospice program.   Encouraging patients to experience the compassionate comfort care provided by a highly skilled multi-disciplinary hospice care team provides patients with another option before making such a monumental decision.

So, what does that mean?  The legislation does not require health care providers to carry out a patients request pursuant to the End of Life Option law. In support of the hospice mission, Hospice of the Foothills will not participate in the decision or provide the life-ending medications. But, Hospice of the Foothills will not abandon the patients and families facing such a deeply personal choice. We will provide education and support to our patients and families even if the patient chooses to end their live.  Hospice of the Foothills will be there…before and after.

There are a wide range of views and perspectives in our society surrounding the ethical issue of deliberately ending life for a person living with a terminal condition.  These should be recognized and respected.  We believe declining or withdrawing treatment is acceptable when in alignment with the informed wishes of the patient. Informed wishes of a patient start with an honest conversation with their physicians, family members, and loved ones.

Hospice believes the experience of dying is a significant part of life.  The process of dying often leads to enhanced meaning and purpose and can be a sacred experience for the patient and family.

Hospice of the Foothills provides symptom management, pain relief, education, support, and comfort for our patients and their loved ones. For more information call 530-272-5739.      

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