Insight With Beth Ruyak

Hosted By Beth Ruyak

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End Of Life Option Act Explained


Terminally-ill Californians will soon be able to legally end their life. The controversial End of Life Option Act, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown last September, is set to take effect June 9.

A person seeking life-ending medication must make two oral requests at least 15 days apart, one written request and get approval from two independent physicians.  

California’s ELOA, like Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, lets doctors opt out of prescribing life ending medication.

Catherine Sonquist Forest, Medical Director at Stanford Health Care at Los Altos and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Stanford School of Medicine, says she will prescribe life-ending medication to patients who fits the criteria.

“But I 100 percent support any physician who does not feel comfortable prescribing this drug,” she said. “It’s about choice and options.”

Some of these options may not be death. California Medical Association guidelines direct physicians to discuss all of the options for end-of-life with terminally-ill patients. That includes palliative care.

In preparation of the June 9 rollout of ELOA, doctors like Forest are ensuring they are on sturdy legal ground. She’s waiting for the California Department of Health Care Services to release information about how to collect and share data, but says she’s compliant with the law otherwise and ready to have the additional medical option. 

“I’ve been a physician for 20 years and I’ve never had a month that someone hasn’t asked me to help end their pain,” Forest said. “Now I have that option.”

  • Catherine Sonquist Forest, MD MPH, Medical Director at Stanford Health Care at Los Altos and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Stanford School of Medicine 
  • Elizabeth Wallner, a 52-year-old single mother from Sacramento with stage IV colon cancer that has spread to her liver and lungs, who wants to access the new law. 

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