- The End of Life Option Act allows physicians to prescribe lethal doses of various medications to terminally ill patients.
- This legislation, which Governor Jerry Brown signed into law on Monday, is modeled after an Oregon law, which went into effect in 1997.
- In 1992, Californians rejected a broader proposed bill which would allow physicans to administer lethal injections to the terminally ill. Similar bills were rejected in 2005, 2006, and 2007. For the biopharma industry, this could prove to be a controversial measure involving the use of therapies to end a life rather than to prolong it.
Governor Brown, who is 77 years old, weighed all of the arguments when considering whether or not to sign this bill. That includes religious arguments, which reportedly weighed on him heavily.
But despite strong protests from the Californians Against Assisted Suicide, Brown decided to sign the bill becaue he considered the circumstance of a patient facing a long, drawn-out, pain-ridden death. Given the availability of drugs that can hasten death and quell pain, it was a choice that made sense to him.
Looking at the example of Oregon, it seems to be an option that people have chosen in the 23 years since the law was passed. Last year, 105 people in Oregon used the assisted suicide bill to end their lives, and in the last 17 years, a total of 752 patients have chosen to avail themselves of prescriptions written to hasten and ease the end of their lives.
This is, to put it lightly, a controversial issue. And it puts pharmaceutical products and manufacturers in the midst of a debate that has some similarities to the use of therapeutics on death row inmates. Some companies, such as Akorn, have faced scrutiny for providing medications with the intent of facilitating the death penalty. It will be interesting to see if the new California law prompts enough of a debate surrounding the assisted suicide issue that pharma companies choose to weigh in on this controversial use of their products.