Gov. Newsom Praised for Signing Bill to Improve End of Life Option Act

Revised Law will Prevent Hundreds of Dying Californians Each Year from Suffering Needlessly

Compassion & Choices Action Network praised California Governor Gavin Newsom for signing into law Senate Bill 380 because it will dramatically improve terminally ill Californians’ access to the 2015 End of Life Option Act. The End of Life Option Act gives mentally capable, terminally ill adults the option to request prescription medication they can decide to take to peacefully end unbearable suffering, but hundreds of eligible Californians have died each year before completing the time-consuming eligibility process. As a result, they suffered needlessly, instead of dying gently in their sleep.SB 380, co-authored by Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) and Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa), passed with strong support in both the California State Senate (26-8) and Assembly (51-16) on Sept. 10. The law will become effective on January 1, 2022, making it easier for eligible, terminally ill Californians to peacefully end their suffering. “We cannot thank Governor Gavin Newsom enough for his support to dramatically improve this compassionate act,” said Kim Callinan, President and CEO of the Compassion & Choices Action Network. “With his signature, eligible terminally ill adults will soon be able to more easily access the End of Life Option Act without needless suffering and unnecessary roadblocks.” “I’m grateful that others will not have to suffer like my husband did when he was dying, unable to access the End of Life Option Act,” said Amanda Villegas, whose husband, Chris, desperately wanted the option of medical aid in dying, but was not able to access it before his tragic death. 

SB 380 removes regulatory roadblocks to accessing the End of Life Option Act that impeded or prevented hundreds of qualified terminally ill Californians each year from using medical aid in dying to peacefully end their suffering. In fact, a study by Kaiser Permanente Southern California shows one-third of terminally ill adults who request to use the End of Life Option Act die before completing the eligibility process, which includes a 15-day waiting period, and the entire process often takes weeks or months to finish. Using this one-third ratio, since the law took effect in 2016, nearly 1,400 individuals statewide have died before obtaining a prescription (300+ people on an annual basis) vs. the nearly 2,900 who completed the process and received prescriptions for medical aid-in-dying.To address this access problem, SB 380 makes several important improvements to the End of Life Option Act, including:

  • Reduces the mandatory minimum 15-day waiting period between the two oral requests for aid-in-dying medication to 48 hours for all eligible patients. 
  • Healthcare systems and hospices will have to post their medical aid-in-dying policies on their websites, increasing transparency for terminally ill Californians who urgently need this information.

A strong majority of people in California, including underserved communities (Asian Californians: 76%; Black Californians: 70%; Latino Californians: 68%) support the End of Life Option Act, according to a 2019 statewide survey commissioned by the California Health Care Foundation.For more information, here is a fact sheet about SB 380.

ABOUT COMPASSION & CHOICES ACTION NETWORK/COMPASSION & CHOICESCompassion & Choices is comprised of two organizations that improve care and expand options at life’s end: Compassion & Choices (501(c)(3)) educates, empowers, defends, and advocates; the Compassion & Choices Action Network (501(c)(4)) focuses exclusively on legislation, ballot campaigns, and limited electoral work.Paid for by Compassion & Choices Action