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07/11/2019 - 2:00am

The California Department of Health just released a report showing 452 terminally ill, adult patients received prescriptions written by 180 unique physicians for medical aid in dying to peacefully end their suffering and 337 of the patients took the medication in 2018. 

In contrast, in 2017, the DOH reported that 577 patients received prescriptions from 241 unique physicians and 363 of the patients took the medication.

Compassion & Choices says the temporary suspension of the California End of Life Option Act last year -- because of an ongoing lawsuit seeking to invalidate it -- likely caused a decrease in the participation in the law during the last year.

“Our goal is simply to make medical aid in dying available for those who will get peace of mind from its availability, so from this perspective, it makes no difference that fewer dying patients used the law,” said Kim Callinan, CEO of Compassion & Choices.  “That said, in this case, the report appears to corroborate our anecdotal experience suggesting that the temporary suspension of the law resulted in eligible patients being deprived of this compassionate option; this situation is tragic and calls for an even greater focus on ensuring eligible patients can access the law.”

California is one of nine states — including Colorado, Hawai‘i, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington— as well as the District of Columbia, that have authorized medical aid in dying. Collectively, these 10 jurisdictions represent more than one out of five U.S. residents (22%) and have 40 years of combined experience using this end-of-life care option.

A California appeals court in late November directed a superior trial court to nullify its judgment in late May that suspended the state’s medical aid-in-dying law before the appeals court granted a stay in June reinstating the law. The Court of Appeal, 4th Appellate District (“appeals court”), ruled the physician plaintiffs didn’t establish legal standing when they filed their lawsuit in 2016 to overturn the End of Life Option Act because the law doesn’t affect them or their patients since they both are free to opt out of participating in the law.

“My terminally ill wife Christine and I found out the same evening we got home from driving to UCLA for our first appointment that the law had been invalidated. She was devastated and suffered major mental anguish and fear,” said San Luis Obispo resident Tom Whaley, whose 42-year-old cancer-stricken wife Christina finally was able to use the law three months later after it was temporarily suspended on Aug. 25, 2018. “The law’s suspension delayed Christina’s ability to obtain the prescription by at least two weeks because UCLA needed time to restart its program after the law was reinstated.”

“There’s no question the temporary suspension of the law prevented physicians from writing prescriptions for medical aid in dying,” said Chandana Banerjee, M.D., M.P.A., Assistant Clinical Professor in the Division of Supportive Medicine specializing in Hospice & Palliative Medicine.  “It is already difficult for patients to access and understand the law. I am not surprised that the number of physicians who prescribed has gone down.”

As chair of the End of Life Option Act Subcommittee at City of Hope, during the temporary suspension of the law, Dr. Banerjee has also seen and addressed the challenges faced by both patients and providers. The City of Hope is co-hosting an End of Life Symposium with Compassion & Choices about the law on Sept. 27.

“At the City of Hope, caring for their patient throughout their journey in cancer is at the center of everything we do,” concluded Dr. Banerjee. “We need to do a better job of educating physicians and supporting them, so they can support their eligible patients in this option.” 

Polling shows 76 percent of Californians across the political and demographic spectrum support medical aid in dying. This majority support includes 82 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of independents, 67 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of whites, Latinos and Asian Americans, and 52 percent of African Americans

07/10/2019 - 6:14pm

The 16th Annual International Conference on Clinical Ethics & Consultation (ICCEC 2020) is March 31 to April 3, 2020 in South Africa.  Abstracts are due October 18, 2019.

07/10/2019 - 6:14pm

The 16th Annual International Conference on Clinical Ethics & Consultation (ICCEC 2020) is March 31 to April 3, 2020 in South Africa.  Abstracts are due October 18, 2019.

07/10/2019 - 6:14pm
The 16th Annual International Conference on Clinical Ethics & Consultation (ICCEC 2020) is March 31 to April 3, 2020 in South Africa.  Abstracts are due October 18, 2019.
07/10/2019 - 5:47pm

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Few people would say that the system of payment and organ distribution is perfect. About 37 million Americans suffer from kidney disease and 94,831 are candidates (as of July 10, 2019) for kidney transplant. In 2018, 21,167 kidney transplants and 836 combined kidney/pancreas transplants were performed in the U.S. Many ESRD patients (468,000) receive dialysis treatment, usually in privately owned clinics, while 193,000 have received a transplant. The system of distribution of kidneys was changed a year ago, when the system sought to increase the number of successful transplants by decreasing the amount of time a hospital has to accept or refuse an organ.…

07/10/2019 - 12:06pm

The UK’s National Health Service hopes that its partnership with Amazon could help to reduce demand on its services.

07/10/2019 - 12:03pm

The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio said it has done five uterus transplants so far and hoped to enroll 10 women in its study.

07/10/2019 - 11:59am

Her research centers on the nature of mental disorders and how society ought to respond to maladaptive behaviors like crime and addiction.

07/10/2019 - 11:58am

The Trump administration pledged Wednesday to reduce end stage kidney disease by 25 percent by 2030, proposing to provide better care earlier in the disease’s progression and double the number of kidney transplants performed in the United States.

07/10/2019 - 3:00am

81-year-old Sonny Schuldt was vacationing in Sicily when he suffered a heart attack and stroke. While he had a Do Not Resuscitate order, Italy does not honor DNR orders. Schuldt is now in a medically-induced coma and his family is trying to transp...