With just months until the state's assisted suicide law goes into effect, the California Medical Association has issued guidelines to doctors on writing prescriptions of lethal doses of medication for terminally ill patients.
The 15-page guide released Tuesday outlines the complicated legal and medical steps that physicians must take before they can authorize drugs to hasten a patient's death, the Los Angeles Times reported. It also helps physicians understand their legal rights to participate or not participate based on their own moral or religious values.
"We are starting to get a lot of questions both from our members, the individual physicians, but also the public," said Francisco Silva, general counsel of the medical association. "They are trying to understand how the act is going to work."
Citing the law, the medical association says patients who are at least 18 years old with the capacity to make medical decisions may request an aid-in-dying drug as long as their attending physician and a consulting physician have diagnosed a terminal disease that is expected to result in death within six months.
The patient is required to make two verbal requests at least 15 days apart and one written request that is signed, dated and witnessed by two adults, as well as provide proof of California residency.
The state request form is titled "Request for an Aid-in-Dying Drug to End My Life in a Humane and Dignified Manner."
Physicians must inform the patient that he or she may rescind the request for an aid-in-dying drug at any time and in any manner.
The guide says doctors can list the cause of death "that they feel is the most accurate" — including the underlying terminal illness, or just write "pursuant to the End of Life Options Act."
The law was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October, but it does not take effect until 90 days after the end of a special legislative session on health care. That date has not yet been set, but the session must adjourn before November.