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    Does California have a right-to-die law? Ask the Lawyer
    • December 19, 2023

    Q: Dad is still of good mind. He can reason, make decisions, but has been very depressed and is physically in a bad way. He has an illness that is gradually depriving him of motor control and he is expected to die within 6 to 12 months. He has expressed a desire to end his life. Is there a right to die in California?

    R.G., Carson

    Ron Sokol

    A: My thoughts are with you, your family and your dad. It is difficult, if not impossible, to grasp what all must be involved in that decision.

    What I can indicate is that in 2016, the California End of Life Option Act went into effect and was then revised in 2022. The law permits a terminally ill adult, who is a California resident, to request a medication from his or her physician that will bring an end to his or her life. There is a form for the individual to fill out, which is to be witnessed and which requires certain information. In addition, there are attending physician forms that must be submitted.  A very helpful link online about the process and the forms is available through the California Department of Public Health: I encourage you to review that link. Further, consultation with counsel or another qualified professional is prudent as well.

    Q: I am having an operation that probably is not life threatening, but among the items they ask me to answer is whether I have an advanced health care directive. Please explain what this is and why I am to answer.

    Y.A., Lakewood

    A: There invariably is quite a bit of paperwork for you to sign, and in some instances initial, before undergoing surgery. Part of this relates to risks attendant to the surgical procedure (including if you are anesthetized). Some, like the advanced health care directive, tie into those risks, but also provide useful and very critical information to the facility, staff and physician(s).

    The advanced health care directive is addressed at California Probate Code 4701. Here is a quote from that section which speaks for itself: “You have the right to give instructions about your own physical and mental health care. You also have the right to name someone else to make those health care decisions for you. This form lets you do either or both of these things. It also lets you express your wishes regarding donation of organs and the designation of your primary physician.”

    The Advanced Health Care Directive Form at Section 4701 can be utilized by you as is, or modified, or you can use a different form, but bottom line it covers “directives” about your health, both physical and mental. The surgery facility, staff and physician want and need to know (if not be assured) you have that in place.

    Ron Sokol has been a practicing attorney for over 40 years, and has also served many times as a judge pro tem, mediator, and arbitrator. It is important to keep in mind that this column presents a summary of the law, and is not to be treated or considered legal advice, let alone a substitute for actual consultation with a qualified professional.

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    ​ Orange County Register