Physician assisted suicide or aid-in-dying is a practice where a physician gives a patient drugs to kill himself.
California legalized physician-assisted suicide in June of 2016 with the End of Life Options Act. An adult who has been given a terminal diagnosis and is expected to die within six months may legally commit suicide by ingesting lethal drugs prescribed by a doctor. The cause of death is not legally recognized as a suicide, but rather as the illness from which the patient suffered.
In 2022, the legislature and governor removed most of the safeguards in the law that had been included as concessions to those who argued that making lethal prescriptions available could lead to murder or coerced suicide.
The original law required a patient to make two written requests to his doctor for lethal drugs, at least two weeks apart, before being given a prescription. This would give time for someone who was temporarily depressed to recover. In 2022, the minimum time required between requests was reduced to 48 hours and only one must be in writing.
The original law required that the patient sign an attestation form, affirming that he intended to kill himself, within 48 hours of ingesting the lethal drugs. This would make it harder for someone to get away with poisoning a patient who had obtained the drugs but did not plan on ingesting them yet. The final attestation requirement was removed in 2022.
The original law did not require any doctor to participate in a patient’s suicide. If a patient requested lethal drugs and the doctor did not think it was in the patient’s best interest to have them, the doctor did not have to act on the request. In 2022, the law was changed to require the doctor to document the request so it can be used as one of the patient’s required two requests.