Most Californians are in favor of the potential new law will allow adults in California with six months or less to live to request a prescription for a lethal drug overdose in California. The drug must be self-administered — this is not the same as euthanasia where someone other than the terminally ill person can administer the drugs.
This law mirrors already existing laws in Oregon, Vermont, Washington. It is also available in Montana and New Mexico due to court decisions. To take advantage of those laws, Californians had to become residents of one of those states for 6 months. This requires them to leave their families and friends and ironically stay alive for the entire 6 months that they have been told they have to live. That can be hard to do when you’re in a lot of pain.
What’s happening instead is that Californians are taking their lives into their own hands anyway. They are secretly planning their final exits and do so alone, to the surprise of their families. They don’t tell anyone (but me) because it is currently illegal, and someone may try to stop them. They feel safe telling me because I’m their estate planning attorney and must keep their secrets confidential. Without help of professionals, not everyone is successful at taking their own life, and those who are usually leave in violent ways. Statistics show that 10% of all suicides in this country are committed by those with terminal illnesses. When suicide kits were available online, a 91-year-old woman sold 1600 helium hood kits per year for $60. How will this ability to end our lives compassionately affect our life insurance policies? It won’t. The death certificate will read “terminal illness,” not suicide.
Stay tuned for the sequel that will discuss how international waters may create another option for end of life care.
Want to learn how you can put your end of life wishes in writing? Save your family the heartache of trying to figure out what you would have wanted by making it clear.