California’s End of Life Option Act


This week marked an interesting turning point in the history of our culture’s relationship to death and dying.  For nearly 39 million people, options at the end of life have expanded to include legally, without the stigma of “suicide” being attached, taking a prescription to end one’s own life.

California’s End of Life Option Act become law yesterday, making it the fifth state to allow terminally ill individuals to lawfully chose to end their own lives.

Meanwhile, Canada joins Switzerland, Germany, Albania, Columbia and Japan in allowing assisted suicide within specific guidelines.

What does that mean for senior care providers?

It means that we’d better step up to the front to talk about death and dying; to explore how we feel about the end of life and what we believe.  We’d better talk to – and listen to – our clients and families to better understand what they believe.  We should listen to opinions that differ from ours and try to understand how someone at that phase of life, where death is no longer a remote inevitability but a daily, close at hand reality, considers their choices.

Perhaps we’ll start to see the process of dying differently than before. Perhaps not – but either way, we stand in a position to lead the way for the conversation on how to live with, and die with, new approaches to this “final stage of growth,” as Dr. Kubler-Ross so elegantly referred to it in her landmark work that introduced many of us to a discussion of death and dying.

We have the opportunity to lead the way to discussions on how to implement new laws in ways that protect everyone’s choice, no matter what that is.  It is, inevitably, a topic much nearer to the experience of our clients than of the rest of the population.  Are we ready to lead the way?  Are we ready to help our clients through this process and the heart-wrenching decisions that are now legally available to them?

It’s a big challenge for the senior care industry.  We’d better be ready to lead the way with answers and solutions.

4 Responses to “California’s End of Life Option Act”

  1. Peggy Kinney

    I need much more information on this as I live in AZ but conduct site visits in CA. Thank you.

  2. Andrea Dallman

    I believe everyone has the right to die with dignity. This law will give those who are terminally suffering the right to end their lives when their pain and loss of function outweigh their need to remain among the living. This law will allow us to better understand the passing of life and will, therefore, better equip us all for that passage.

  3. Tracy Eckertson

    It is good to see more states allowing this option for end of life. The system is only used when the patient feels a strong need to control the dying process, at least that has been my experience in Oregon and Washington. One gentleman decided to pursue this in one of my Assisted Living communities. He and his son drove to his favorite spot on the coast, spent time together and talked, when he was ready he took his prescription. His son told us he seemed very peaceful.

  4. Lee Jackson

    I am the son of a mom who died of Alzheimer’s. I watched her fear increase in her last year of life to the point of terror. No person should have to experience that terror as they as they realize they are forgeting everything they hold dear. I am happy I will have a another choice of places I can go to die with dignity Thank you California.


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