Oct 08, 2008

California: Terminal Patients Now Have Right to Know Their End-of-Life Options

Assembly Bill 2747, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on September 30, 2008, requires doctors to provide terminally ill patients with disclosure and counseling about their options for end-of-life care.

What does that mean for patients and their families? Simply put, health care providers are now required to let them know about their choices when they've been diagnosed with a terminal condition, including:

  • hospice care
  • their prognosis, with and without disease-targeted treatment
  • their right to continue such treatment with or without palliative care (treatment to relieve, rather than cure, symptoms caused by cancer), and
  • their right to give individual health care instructions in their Advance Health Care Directive.

This is the first bill of its kind to pass in the country. Its advocates say that it shifts the decision-making power to the patient. Its opponents insist that it sets the stage for future assisted-suicide legislation. Whatever your opinion, the result is the same: patients now have a legal right to know their end-of-life options.