Stewart Florsheim supports a man in his last days and witnesses first hand what California’s End of Life Option Act offers.
About a year ago, I joined the board of a nonprofit that helps Californians make end-of-life decisions, including the option to use medical aid in dying. I took the volunteer training so I could help with phone triage and, if needed, support clients on the day they choose to take the medication.
A few months later, we got a call from the brother of a man who was terminally ill. Billy (the name I will give the man) was already approved to take the medication. He had cancer with metastases to his bones and was in severe pain. His brother lives on the East Coast and wanted one of our volunteers to support him on his day of death, or he would otherwise be alone. We also spoke to Billy to confirm the request, and he was grateful for our support.
I visited Billy several days before he took the medication so we could get to know each other. I made sure he knew that at any point in time, he could change his mind. On the day of his death, I facilitated a tearful Face Time call between Billy and his brother, and then he took the medication. We chatted for a few minutes about his favorite books, and then he fell into a deep sleep. He passed away within an hour.
California is one of only 10 states that supports medical aid in dying. The act has rigorous guidelines, but it appears that many Californians who would qualify and want to use it, don’t know about it. The law went into effect in 2016 and, by the end of 2021, less than a quarter of 1% of deaths in California resulted from using it that year.