California is now beginning to implement its new right-to-die law, so terminally ill patients with six months or less to live can ask their doctor for life-ending medication.

The law requires terminally ill patients to submit three requests to their doctor for life-ending drugs. Two of them are verbal requests and must be at least 15 days apart.

Patients must submit the third request in writing. Doctors and pharmacists can refuse to issue lethal medications without any fear of consequences. Patients can also opt out at any time.

California will become the fifth state to allow medical aid in dying, and it’s estimated that some 1,500 lethal prescriptions will be written in the state each year.

When Californians passed a medical marijuana measure, marijuana dispensaries began opening. In the wake of the new physician assisted suicide law, the first “right to die” clinic has been created.

The proprietor of that new facility, Dr. Lonny Shavelson, reviews the services legally available under the state’s End of Life Options Act.

…[H]his new business, Bay Area End of Life Options, will particularly help those who cannot find a doctor to participate in the law.

…Shavelson plans to consult with patients who are either requesting or considering ending their lives, as well as with physicians participating in the law. Medicare will now pay for patients’ end-of-life-care discussions with a physician or other licensed caregiver — about $83 for the first half-hour and $75 for the second half-hour. But the federal program will not pay for physician aid-in-dying costs.

So the Berkeley doctor is charging $200 for an initial patient evaluation. If the patient does not qualify, or needs better end of life care, or to talk more with their doctors, the process will stop there. For those who do qualify and want to continue on, there is another $1,800 fee to cover the cost of more detailed evaluations and visits, and forms related to the law. A few medical professionals contacted by this newspaper said the combined amount did not seem exorbitant given the number of times the patient might be meeting with the doctor.

In fact, there may be many physicians who are not up for ending the lives of their patients.

Medical director Thomas Strouse, with UCLA’s Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, is part of a team that included ethicists and chaplains. Within the system were many challenges, including pushback from some doctors.

“They say I went to the medical school to cure, and I would not want to participate in writing a lethal prescription,” he said.

Doctors are not required to participate and some religious-based healthcare systems can and have opted out.

However, for now, that is at least one new business for the state which has shuttered the doors of many over recent years.


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