SAN DIEGO (AP) — California's new law allowing life-ending drugs for the terminally ill has the strictest requirements of any of the five states that permit such prescriptions.
Many physicians say they are nervous about prescribing lethal doses of drugs for the terminally ill. The law in the nation's most populous state took decades to pass and goes into effect June 9. There are concerns it will lead to hasty decisions, misdiagnosis, and even waning support by insurers for palliative care, in which dying people can be sedated to relieve their suffering.
Requirements to obtain a prescription for lethal drugs under the new law include:
WHO WILL BE ELIGIBLE TO GET SUCH PRESCRIPTIONS?
Patients must be at least 18 and given only six months or less to live. Two doctors must sign off on the diagnosis and deem the patient mentally competent.
WHAT DOES THE PATIENT NEED TO DO TO REQUEST A PRESCRIPTION FOR LIFE-ENDING DRUGS?
The patient must be able to make an oral request for the prescription to their primary care doctor twice and 15 days apart. The person must also make a written request.
CAN THE CARETAKER GIVE THE PERSON THE DRUGS?
No. Under the law, the person must be able to administer the drugs themselves without help.
DOES INSURANCE COVER LIFE-ENDING DRUGS IN CALIFORNIA?
The law does not require private insurance companies to cover the cost. The drugs will be covered under California's state Medicaid program, Medi-Cal. Federal programs such as Medicare and the Veterans Administration will not cover them, since the practice is not allowed under federal law.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
A common drug used for such purposes, secobarbital, can run up to $5,000 for a lethal dose. It is known by the brand name as Seconal.