The California End of Life Option Act (CA EOLOA) took effect in June 2016, allowing terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to pursue medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option. California became the most populous and diverse state to pass a medical aid-in-dying law, and many wondered how access would differ in the Golden State from smaller, more homogeneous authorized states such as Oregon, Washington and Vermont.
In late December, JAMA [Journal of the American Medical Association] Internal Medicine published data on Kaiser Permanente Southern California’s experience in the first year of implementation of the CA EOLOA. Kaiser Permanente Southern California serves over 4 million people and represents 6,000 doctors in the southern counties of the state. When the law was passed, it formed an EOLOA taskforce to ensure they had the proper policies in place and hired EOLOA-licensed social work coordinators to assist patients and physicians in navigating the law. Their detailed account of individual experiences is a testament to the importance of supportive health systems and doctors when providing end-of-life care. The data provides important insight into who is accessing the law and why.
According to the study, 379 patients inquired about medical aid in dying in the first year, 176 (46%) made a first request, 92 (24%) received a prescription and at least 68 of the 92 people (73%) who received a prescription ingested the medication (eight did not, and 16 are unknown); 76% of patients who were prescribed medical aid-in-dying medication had cancer, and 76% of patients who ingested the medication had cancer. More than half (55%) of patients were receiving palliative care or hospice at the time of their inquiry. Not wanting to suffer was listed as one of the most common reasons patients cited for seeking EOLOA, along with not being able to enjoy daily activities.
The full report is posted here.