Compassion & Choices Action Network applauded the California State Assembly for passing Senate Bill 380 by a floor vote of 47-14. The bipartisan bill, co-authored by Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) and Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa), would improve access to the End of Life Option Act.
The bill now moves to the California State Senate, which overwhelmingly passed (26-8) the original measure in May, for a final concurrence vote. If the Senate passes the bill and Governor Gavin Newsom signs it into law, it will become effective on January 1, 2022, making it easier for terminally ill Californians to peacefully end their suffering.
The End of Life Option Act gives mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to request prescription medication they can decide to take to peacefully end unbearable suffering. The legislation included a provision that would expire at the end of 2025 unless new legislation is passed. SB 380 would extend that sunset provision to 2031.
“We applaud the Assembly for voting to improve access to the End of Life Option Act for eligible terminally ill adults in California,” said Kim Callinan, president/CEO of Compassion & Choices Action Network. “We are now on the verge of providing necessary transparency and greater access to the End of Life Option Act. The Assembly’s passage of SB 380 is a notable step forward for adults who are navigating the most challenging time in their lives.”
SB 380 would remove regulatory roadblocks to accessing the End of Life Option Act, which took effect in 2016, that impede or prevent hundreds of qualified terminally ill Californians from using medical aid-in-dying to peacefully end their suffering. It would improve access to the California End of Life Option Act by making the following revisions to the law:
- Reduce the mandatory minimum 15-day waiting period between the two oral requests for aid-in-dying medication to 48 hours for all eligible terminally ill Californians. (New Mexico’s governor signed similar medical aid-in-dying legislation into law on April 8 that requires a 48-hour waiting period between the time the prescription is written and filled.)
- Healthcare systems and hospices would have to post their medical aid-in-dying policies on their websites, increasing transparency for terminally ill Californians who urgently need this information.
“By the time the doctors told my husband Chris Davis that he would die from bladder cancer, he had less than a week to live, so shortening the 15-day waiting period for medical aid in dying to 48 hours could made the difference between him dying peacefully and dying in agony,” said Ontario resident Amanda Villegas. “Tragically, my husband died with tubes draining various bodily fluids that protruded his stomach, kidneys, and chest. I plead with the Senate to pass SB 380 and with Governor Newsom to sign it into law, so no other terminally ill Californian has to needlessly suffer like my husband Chris did.”
“For nearly a decade, I have endured painful treatments for terminal melanoma that has spread to my bones, lungs and brain,” said Matt Fairchild, a Catholic, 51-year-old, retired Army staff sergeant from Burbank who takes 26 medications to manage his symptoms. “While doctors say my condition is stable for the next 90 days, it could suddenly get dramatically worse, so reducing the 15-day waiting period for medical aid in dying to 48 hours is important to me. I pray the Senate will pass SB 380 and Governor Newsom will sign it into law.”
A strong majority of people in all communities (Asian: 76%; Black: 70%; Latino: 68%; white: 82%) support California’s End of Life Option Act, according to a 2019 statewide survey commissioned by the California Health Care Foundation.
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 time-consuming process, which includes a 15-day waiting period and often takes weeks or months to finish. Using this one-third ratio, since 2016 nearly 1,400 individuals statewide have died before obtaining a prescription (more than 300 people on an annual basis) vs. the nearly 2,900 who completed the process and received prescriptions for medical aid-in-dying.
For more information, here is a fact sheet about SB 380. Compassion & 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.