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Doctors open up about how they'll counsel patients once aid in dying becomes CA law next month




Terminally ill patient Jim Staloch (R), caresses a dove as part of an animal therapy program while at the Hospice of Saint John in Lakewood, Colorado.
Terminally ill patient Jim Staloch (R), caresses a dove as part of an animal therapy program while at the Hospice of Saint John in Lakewood, Colorado.
John Moore/Getty Images

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Starting on June 9th, doctors in California will be allowed to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients with six months or less to live without having to fear criminal prosecution.

The End of Life Option Act will make California the fifth U.S. state to allow doctors to prescribe these kinds of drugs, though it is not a requirement. Doctors are allowed to opt out of the law if they wish, and though some doctors will, those who opt out do not have to refer patients to a doctor who will write the prescription.

Some in the palliative care field are welcoming the law after years of debate over the ethics and legality of physicians aiding a patient in ending his or her life. Others say that the law goes directly against a doctor’s instinct and that other options are always preferable to ending one’s own life.

For more information on the law and answers to questions like who qualifies, how to take advantage of the law, and whether doctors are required to comply, check out this FAQ from KPCC health reporter Stephanie O'Neill.

Guests:

Stephanie O’Neill, KPCC health care correspondent; she’s been covering California’s End-of-Life Option Act and its implementation; she tweets from @ReporterSteph

Hilary Fausett M.D., pain management specialist at Foothill Center for Wellness and Pain Management

Warren Fong, M.D., president of the Medical Oncology Association of Southern California