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Perm J. 2016 Fall;20(4):116-121. doi: 10.7812/TPP/16-048.

Ethical Analysis for Physicians Considering the Provision of Life-Ending Medication in Compliance with the California End of Life Option Act.

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CoDirector of the Bioethics Program for Kaiser Permanente, Southern California in Pasadena.


The End of Life Option Act in California, effective June 9, 2016, permits physicians to prescribe lethal medication to patients confirmed to be terminally ill and capable of independently making and carrying out a decision to ingest deadly medication. Medicine has traditionally excluded the provision of deadly medication from proper practice. Physicians reasonably may hold to that limit. However, honoring a repeated request from a capable, terminally ill patient to receive life-ending medication still can be considered to be a moral and permissible approach to relieve suffering. A physician choosing to expand his/her role within this narrowly defined context allows the patient to assume authority for a deeply personal decision that may belong to the patient more than to anyone else.

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