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California’s Aid-In-Dying Law Prompting Doctor-Patient Conversations

Eurika Strotto, left, and Dr. Sunita Shailam discuss how California's aid-in-...

Credit: Katie Schoolov

Above: Eurika Strotto, left, and Dr. Sunita Shailam discuss how California's aid-in-dying law will work, Oct. 26, 2015.

Doctors say California's Right-to-Die law has prompted more patients to ask about end-of-life care.

In a 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 89 percent of respondents thought doctors should have end-of-life discussions with patients, but only 17 percent of those polled had ever had one.

Doctors in California say things are changing.

Since the End-of-Life-Options Act took effect in June 2016, physicians said they have been been having more conversations with patients about dying.

Take San Diego's Dr. Sunita Shailam, for example. The family medicine physician said an increasing number of her patients want to find out how the right-to-die law works.

“Over this past year, I haven’t heard anyone who’s against it," she said. "I’ve only received people who’ve been happy that this is an option.”

California's End-of-Life-Options Act allows terminally ill patients to take their own life with a lethal dose of drugs prescribed by a physician.

Five other states and Washington D.C. have similar laws.

California officials said in the first six months of the law’s existence, 111 people took their own lives with a lethal prescription.

Under the law, doctors can decline to write such a prescription.

Opponents of aid-in-dying say with proper pain management, no one has to suffer at the end of life.

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