Health & Medicine

Medical aid-in-dying is tough to access in SLO County. Here are resources for patients

Editor’s note: This is part of a series on medical aid-in-dying in SLO County, focusing on the story of a terminal cancer patient from San Luis Obispo. Click here to read Part 1. Click here to read Part 2.

Even though medical aid-in-dying has been legal in California for more than two years, it’s still challenging for San Luis Obispo County patients to access end-of-life drugs.

The region’s two dominant medical systems — Tenet Healthcare and Dignity Health — don’t allow physicians to participate in the state law at their facilities, and many doctors are hesitant to discuss the topic with patients.

Terminally ill patients interested in exploring their end-of-life options still have a number of ways they can seek help and find resources.

 

Connect with an advocacy group

Compassion and Choices helped push state lawmakers to pass the End of Life Option Act in 2015. The group is a great source of information for patients considering their end-of-life options.

Compassion and Choices has a page specifically for California patients, which can be found at compassionandchoices.org/california.

The organization also has a “Find Care Tool,” which patients can use to locate providers who are willing to discuss medical aid-in-dying and prescribe end-of-life drugs. The tool can be accessed at compassionandchoices.org/find-care.

San Luis Obispo County patients can also contact Dr. Susan Robinson, a local retired physician, at susan@dancingdog.biz with questions about medical aid-in-dying. They can also call Compassion and Choices at 800-247-7421.

Contact a private physician

Although San Luis Obispo County’s healthcare systems aren’t participating in the state’s medical aid-in-dying law, at least one private physician is willing to prescribe end-of-life drugs.

Dr. Andrea Angelucci of Primary Care Partners SLO talked about her views on aid-in-dying in the second part of our series on Christine Whaley.

She has prescribed end-of-life drugs to at least one patient and said she’d be willing to consult with others in the future.

Patients can reach Primary Care Partners at 805-591-4727.

Ask for a referral

Even if patients’ doctors or hospice care providers won’t prescribe end-of-life drugs, they could potentially ask for a referral to a physician who could.

Some doctors The Tribune spoke with for our medical aid-in-dying series said they didn’t feel comfortable prescribing end-of-life drugs but would be willing to refer patients to facilities like UCLA, where Christine Whaley was able to obtain her prescription.

Tom Whaley, Christine’s husband, also encouraged hospice patients to ask their care providers for help.

“They will probably not respond or might try to send you to out of the area,” he said in an email.

“But the more people that ask, and keep asking, the more likely it is that one of the three that serve our area will decide to support the option. Other hospices throughout the state support it, just none of the local three. So we as their customers need to let them know we would like the options that are legally available to us.”

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Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseymholden

 

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