On June 9, 2016, the California End of Life Options Act takes effect. It legally authorizes a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of a lethal medication so that a patient can end his or her life. The law allows health care individual clinicians to opt out of the activities authorized by the law. The law also allows hospital systems like Dignity Health to prohibit employees and others who work with us from taking part in these activities.
In March, Dignity Health executive leadership approved a policy that states Dignity Health will not participate in the activities authorized under the act. This includes all Dignity Health hospitals, home care providers, hospices, and physicians in the Dignity Health Medical Foundation.
In alignment with "Our Statement of Common Values" written 20 years ago, physician aid-in-dying is not part of our mission. There is no obligation to begin or continue treatment, even life-sustaining treatment, if from the patient's perspective it is an excessive burden or offers no reasonable hope of benefit. Death is a sacred part of life's journey; we will intentionally neither hasten nor delay it. For this reason, physician-assisted suicide is not part of Dignity Health's mission.
This new law has not changed Dignity Health’s perspective or the way Dignity Health offers care. We still have excellent palliative care services and patients can still decline any life-sustaining measure they find too burdensome. Dignity Health staff will refer patients who inquire about the provisions of the End of Life Options Act to their primary care physician for additional information.
For more information, please contact your primary care physician or the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California.