One of the areas covered in many Californians’ estate plans is what actions they want and don’t want taken to extend their lives if they are unable to speak for themselves. These can be spelled out in detail in an Advance Health Care Directive and overseen by a health care power of attorney. In California, the Natural Death Act allows people to be removed from devices and not undergo procedures that would keep them alive if they choose.
However, what if a person is suffering from a terminal illness or debilitating condition and no longer wishes to live in pain? Should they be allowed to end their misery with the help of a physician? That’s been a controversial topic for many years.
Two years ago, California legislators, after much debate, passed the End of Life Option Act. The law allows Californians who are terminally ill to obtain drugs that will end their life. However, they must administer those drugs on their own.
There are many caveats to the law. For example, patients must:
— Have a medically-confirmed diagnosis of a terminal illness that is expected to result in their death within six months.
— Make three requests 15 days or more apart before a physician can prescribe lethal drugs.
— Undergo a mental health screening to confirm that they have the capacity to make this decision.
Whatever your view on the End of Life Option Act and the fact that it allows some people to end their suffering before they are expected to die from a disease, many people do want the right to have life support withdrawn if only machines are keeping them alive and there’s no chance that they can return to a life that’s worth living. These stipulations can be made in an estate plan.
While no one wants to think about these possibilities, by doing so and making your wishes known, you save loved ones the heart-wrenching decision that can tear families apart. Your California estate planning attorney can help you detail your wishes in the necessary documents.
Source: FindLaw, “California Euthanasia Laws,” accessed April 07, 2017