The recently released 2019 data report on the California End of Life Option Act highlights, among other things, the welcome progress made in the increasing number of physicians prescribing medical aid in dying.
In 2019, 246 unique physicians wrote MAID prescriptions, up from 180 in 2018, an increase of 37% from the year before. This matches the 37% increase in the number of prescriptions (618) written in 2019, up from 452 written in 2018.
This is trending in the right direction.
More needs to be done
From our experience over the past 12 months, fully one third of all calls we receive pertain to seeking help finding a physician who participates in the California law. While the 2019 year data is encouraging, the report also indicates that there is more work to be done to ensure that all individuals facing a terminal illness are both informed about and have access to medical aid in dying. The report reflects a disappointing lack of diversity among the people who received prescriptions for medical aid in dying and used MAID last year in this culturally rich and very diverse state.
Specifically, according to the report, 353 White Californians (87%) utilized the law in 2019, while comprising just over a third (36.5 %) of the total population of California. Alternatively, 5 Black (1.2%), 26 Asian (6.4%), and 16 (4.0%) Hispanic Californians accessed the law in 2019, not even closely matching their demographic representation of the state’s population (Black: 6.5%; Asian: 15.5%; Hispanic: 39.4%).
As attention throughout the country has become laser-focused on racial justice, it is past time to remedy this specific disparity in access to medical aid in dying under the California End of Life Option Act.
Out in the Community
While we have continued to provide in-service training sessions for hospice personnel through video conferencing during the stay-at-home restrictions and continue to work with clients extensively by phone, once the threat of COVID-19 is finally mitigated, our EOLCCA volunteers look forward to getting back out in the community. We will direct our outreach efforts to broaden end-of-life planning education to reach a more diverse community of terminally-ill Californians.
We want to ensure that every person is aware, early enough in their terminal diagnosis, that in addition to accessing hospice care, he/she may qualify for California’s End of Life Option Act and if so, has the right to request a physician’s prescription for medical aid in dying. If they would like an EOLCCA volunteer to help them navigate the often cumbersome and lengthy process involved in accessing MAID, including finding physicians who participate, as always, we will be there to support each person and their family members for as long as they would like our help.