End of Life Option Act

The End of Life Option Act, which went into effect on June 9, 2016, gives terminally ill adults in California the option to end their lives by swallowing lethal doses of physician-prescribed drugs. For a patient to receive the drug, two doctors must confirm the patient’s prognosis of six months or less to live and determine that the patient is mentally competent to make informed health care decisions. The patient must then make two oral requests 15 days apart, and one written request, to a physician for assisted death, with witnesses to all requests. The new legislation allows for organizations and physicians to “opt-out” of dispensing end-of-life drugs.

St. Joseph Health Medical Group has “opted-out” of the provisions of California’s end-of-life law and will not participate in the aid in dying practice on our premises, as allowed by the legislation. This means dispensing end-of-life medications will not take place at our physician offices or any of our affiliated hospitals. We believe physicians have an obligation to openly discuss patient’s concerns, unmet needs, feelings and desires about the dying process. It’s important to learn the meaning behind the patient’s question and attempting to respond to a patient’s concern can be a potent, therapeutic intervention.

In most cases, people wishing to use this option would do so in a home or other setting, and many hospitals in states where physician-assisted suicide is legal have also decided not to participate on their premises. Most patients who initially consider obtaining a lethal dose of medication do not persist with their requests when they feel their concerns are effectively addressed.

End-of-Life FAQs

Can patients talk with their physicians about assisted suicide?

We believe all physicians have a responsibility to discuss end-of-life care with their patients who may be facing choices on their care. We are committed to providing the best care to every person at every stage of life.

We respect the rights of patients and their care team to discuss and explore all treatment options and believe those conversations are important and confidential. As part of a discussion, patient requests for self-administered life-ending medication may occur, but our providers do not participate in any way in assisted suicide.

We provide all other requested end-of-life and palliative care and other services to patients and families.

What is allowed under the End of Life Option Act in California?

The law will give terminally ill adults in California the option to end their lives by swallowing lethal doses of physician-prescribed drugs. For a patient to receive the drug, two doctors must confirm the patient’s prognosis of six months or less to live and determine that the patient is mentally competent to make informed health care decisions. The patient must then make two oral requests 15 days apart, and one written request, to a physician for assisted death, with witnesses to all requests.

Patients must be able to self-administer the drugs. Under this law, it is a felony to coerce a patient into making a request or to forge such a request. A request can only come from the patient and cannot be made on the patient’s behalf through any means, including power of attorney, advance health care directive, conservator, health care agent, surrogate or any other legally recognized health care decision maker.

Do your providers write or fill lethal prescriptions?

No. While we respect the rights of patients and their care team to discuss and explore all treatment options and believe those conversations are important and confidential, our providers do not participate in assisted suicide in any way.

Will patients’ advance directive or POLST documentation be respected?

Yes. We have long believed that everyone deserves the best possible care at every stage of life, particularly in the final years. That’s why we want every American to have the opportunity to plan in advance - in consultation with their physicians - for the type of care they wish to receive through the end of life. Advance directives and POLST documentation for all patients are respected.

Will St. Joseph Health Medical Group physicians write or fill lethal prescriptions?

We encourage patients and their care team to discuss and explore all treatment options and we believe those conversations are important and confidential. Our providers will not participate in assisted suicide if they are working on "St. Joseph Health time" or on St. Joseph Health premises, which includes within our medical foundation or in our hospitals under a contractual agreement (i.e., anesthesia, radiology, pathology).

A physician who has privileges at one of our hospitals but chooses to be a "prescribing physician" on "non-SJH time" and in their own office space at another medical office building (not SJH premises) can do so because we have no authority/responsibility with them in that separate context.

Does St. Joseph Health Medical Group provide palliative and hospice care?

Yes. At St. Joseph Health Medical Group, we provide comprehensive care to patients and their families by helping them cope with chronic illness and the bereavement process. From advance care planning to pain relief support, our team of compassionate providers are devoted to caring for the patient’s mind, body and spirit.

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is medical care to relieve suffering and improve the quality of life for patients with serious and/or life-threatening illness. This is accomplished with advanced symptom management facilitated by a team of experts. Palliative medicine isn’t just limited to end-of-life care and is provided at the same time as other appropriate medical treatment. Unlike hospice, palliative care is available to any patient, not just patients with a limited life expectancy.Our clinicians treat symptoms as early as possible and enable people with a serious disease to live more comfortably. Patients referred to our palliative care team can continue curative treatments and receive aggressive treatment for their pain and other symptoms, along with increased physical and spiritual support.

Caring for the Mind, Body and Spirit

While your physician remains the leader of your medical team, our Palliative Care Team comprised of doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains will provide an additional resources to you and your family while you are an inpatient.

Our St. Joseph Health Medical Group palliative care team can help by:

  • Providing services that meet the special physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs of you and your family.
  • Offering assistance to you and your family to identify goals of treatment.
  • Helping with aggressive management of pain and other symptoms.
  • Supporting family caregivers.
  • Simply listening and offering support.

Most patients suffering from illness want symptom management and some sense of control. Many times they want to spend time with their loved ones to remember good times and talk about important things. Pain and other symptoms may get in the way of allowing the patient to do this.

Our Locations

Napa - Palliative Care

Napa - Palliative Care

Address
1000 Trancas St.,
Napa, CA 94558
Santa Rosa - Palliative Care

Santa Rosa - Palliative Care

Address
121 Sotoyome Street, Suite 201
Santa Rosa, CA 95404