Testimony in Support of California SB 1002, End of Life Option Telephone Line Act

March 29, 2016

This is a full transcript of our President George Eighmey’s testimony, at the March 30th California Senate Committee on Health hearing, in support of SB 1002, End of Life Option Telephone Line Act, which we proposed and helped to draft.

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Thank you Chair Hernandez and Committee members for affording us the opportunity to urge the passage of SB 1002, a bill that will establish a toll-free telephone number for Californians to receive ready access to factual and unbiased information about the newly enacted End of Life Option Act.

My name is George Eighmey, I am from Portland, Oregon. I am presently the board president of Death with Dignity National Center, the oldest organization in the US that promotes, passes and protects Death with Dignity laws. I am a former Oregon legislator, serving during the 1990s when Oregon twice passed its Death with Dignity Act. I also served for 12 years as the executive director of a non-profit group that was formed to facilitate the implementation of Oregon’s law.

During my more than 23 years of assisting in passing Death with Dignity laws in Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California as well as Canada I learned the importance of providing factual information to those who wish to consider the option of using such laws and to educate their medical providers on the safeguards and provisions of the laws.

We learned very quickly that those who are facing imminent death need to know their end of life options so they may spend their remaining months and days in peace of mind and comfort. When they are well educated on these options they are able to make informed decisions.

Oregon has led the nation in giving its terminally ill citizens unbiased materials and facts about its Death with Dignity Act. Because Oregon was the first in the nation with such a law we had to make certain our model provided information and forms from a neutral source. The Oregon Department of Health established a webpage that includes the statute, forms, Q&As, and phone numbers for its citizens to call with their questions and concerns. In the more than 18 years since our law passed Oregon’s Health Department has received praise for providing factual information and data on the implementation of the law.

Now that Californians are going to be able to avail themselves of an Oregon type end of life option law it is imperative they too have ready access to information. Since the passage of the End of Life Option Act our organization, Death with Dignity National Center, receives 10 to 15 % of all our telephone calls and numerous inquiries on our website on California’s law. It is apparent there is a need for Californians to have unbiased access to a phone number and agency to answer the questions we are getting instead of having to call out of state.

I urge you to pass SB 1002 to provide your constituents with the best and fastest source of information on your End of life Option Act.

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