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CALIFORNIA EXPANDS END OF LIFE OPTIONS

As Arizona Probate Attorneys, one of the most common requests we get is for Living Wills. Also known as Healthcare Proxies or Advance Healthcare Directives, these documents are important parts of Arizona Estate Plans because they provide a means for people to express their wishes about end of life treatment. A Living Will prepared by an Arizona Estate Planning Attorney usually contains several questions about such subjects as life support, pain management, and treatment for terminal illnesses. When discussing these matters with clients, Arizona Estate Planning lawyers are sometimes asked about euthanasia-physician assisted suicide. For now that has been a very short discussion for the very simple reason that euthanasia is illegal in Arizona as it is in most states. Recently, however, California created an exception in its law and a similar proposal has been made by Arizona lawmakers.

On June 9, 2016, California joined about a half dozen states in authorizing doctors to assist terminally ill patients who wish to end their lives without pain. Under the End of Life Option Act, some terminally ill Californians will be able to elect physician assisted suicide. Only a patient who has been medically certified by two separate doctors as having a life expectancy of six months or less can begin the process and the patient must be able to ingest the drug without assistance. That patient must then make two separate in-person visits to their physician to request the lethal dose of medication, which must be followed by a written application stating that the patient will take the lethal dose within 48 hours and keep it secure in the meantime. In addition to these procedures, many California doctors and hospitals are beginning to draft protocols for how they will manage patient requests such as requiring a mandatory psychological evaluation or a separate consultation with a palliative care specialist before moving forward.

Here in Arizona, State Senate Bill ("SB") 1136 is a proposal organized very much along the lines of California's law. It too would apply only to terminally ill patients with less than 6 months to live and would require similar procedures to ensure that patients make an informed and considered decision. For now the committee in charge of SB 1136 has decided not to bring it forward for a vote, so it is unclear if Arizona will follow California's lead. In the meantime, Estate Planning attorneys in Arizona will be watching for developments.

If you have not created a Living Will, or yours is out of date, you should consider meeting with an experienced Arizona Estate Planning or Probate attorney. Here at Donaldson Stewart, P.C. we offer free consultations and accept many employer-provided legal plans.

Read the Arizona bill: http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/52leg/2r/bills/sb1136p.pdf

Read more about the California law: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/03/10/469970753/californias-law-on-medically-assisted-suicide-to-take-effect-june-9

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