This past week we saw a few developments involving end of life options, one a local story and the other a national story out of California. Our job is to keep you informed of issues impacting us as we age so we can be prepared, take action, and experience the quality of life we desire.
A Local End of Life Story
“After enduring great physical pain for several years, Jean lost the strength to keep on living … And, Joe, watching his beloved Jean suffer, was unable to imagine life without her; so they both chose to end their lives together,” the Gainesville Sun article read.
“There was cancer and there were repeated falls from osteoporosis. She had a compound fracture in an arm. She had a broken hip that actually shortened one of her legs,” Jim Subers said. Most of the cartilage was gone in her shoulders and her knees, so every step hurt. She had 25 different doctors. Basically, she was just miserable.
Family members said they are grateful to the medical community for saving Jean’s life a number of times, adding that the advancement of medicine gave the family another 10 years with Jean.
But that is a double-edged sword, Jim Subers said. The advances kept her alive but could not address her increasing pain and declining quality of life. For Jean, she never wanted to be a burden on anyone and for Joe, he simply did not want to live without her.
The U.S. Administration on Aging reports risk factors include medical conditions that significantly limit functioning or life expectancy, pain and a loss of independence or a sense of purpose. Other factors are the fear of a prolonged illness and the recent death of a loved one.
The other side of the discussion centers around helping people find alternatives to suicide or deal with the devastating aftermath. Many times people don’t want to die. They want to end the pain. There are other options. The Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition in Gainesville supports this philosophy.
Meanwhile, the death with dignity movement is spreading nationwide. The organization Death with Dignity has a petition drive in Florida urging legislators to pass a bill that would allow terminally ill patients who meet certain qualifications to get medicine to end their own life on their own terms. The organization states that seven in 10 Americans believe that option should be available.
Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Montana, and most recently California currently allow medically assisted death and several others are considering it.
End of Life Options Act In California
The End of Life Option Act in California went into effect last week on June 9. This polarizing legislation allows terminally ill patients with six months or less to live to request life-ending medication from their physicians. Below are some highlights of the process:
You must be a California residents 18 years and older with a terminal disease that your doctor has determined is likely to result in your death within six months
You also must also be without a mental impairment that hinders your ability to make sound medical decisions. And if you are prescribed the drug and decide to take it, you must have the physical and mental ability to do so.
You will need to make 2 requests to your doctor including a written request, on a special form, which you’ll need to sign and have witnessed by two people.
The law also requires you to have a private discussion with your doctor about your decision. During that conversation, the doctor must explain several things, including: what the alternatives are to taking the drug; how the medication may affect you and that death may not come immediately; that you have the right to withdraw your request or change your mind about ending your life at any point in the process.
Not all physicians, hospitals, or hospice care facilities will participate in this practice although they may refer a patient to a facility or practice that does participate.
“It’s a historic achievement for California, and for a limited universe of people dealing with a terminal illness,” Monning says. “It could indeed be a transformative way of giving them the option of a compassionate end-of-life process.” as published in an NPR article.