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January 19, 2016

The Liberty to Die: California Enacts Physician Aid-in-Dying Law

Author Affiliations
  • 1The Warren Alpert Medical School, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

Copyright 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA. 2016;315(3):251-252. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.16242

On October 5, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed the End of Life Option Act into law, thereby legalizing physician aid in dying in California.1 The significance of this development cannot be overstated. The most populous state in the nation resolved to replace a sesquicentennial aid-in-suicide penal code with a death-with-dignity statute. Other states may soon enact similar statutes. In 2015 alone, a total of 23 states and the District of Columbia have sought to codify the practice of physician aid in dying. Eight of these states have done so for the very first time. This unprecedented legislative wave represents more than double the number of death-with-dignity bills introduced in any year since 1995 and a 6-fold increase relative to 2014. In this Viewpoint, we trace the legalization of physician aid in dying, describe its operational constructs, discuss its ongoing challenges, and consider its future.