Hospital and Health System Policies Concerning the California End of Life Option Act

Academic Article


  • Background: The End of Life Option Act (EOLOA) legalized physician aid in dying for competent, terminally ill Californians in 2016. The law allows clinicians, hospitals, and health systems to decide whether to participate. About 4 in 10 California hospitals permit the EOLOA, but little is known about their approaches and concerns. Objective: Describe hospital EOLOA policies and challenges. Design and Measurements: Survey study of hospitals in California, administered September 2017 to March 2018. We describe hospital policies concerning the EOLOA and perform thematic analysis of open-ended questions about challenges, including availability of providers, process of implementing EOLOA, experiences of distress by providers and patients, and questions about medications. Results: Of 315 hospitals surveyed, 270 (86%) responded. Every surveyed hospital had established a position on the EOLOA. Among hospitals permitting EOLOA, 38% required safeguards not required in the law, 87% provided for referral to another provider if the patient's physician did not participate, and 65% counseled staff, if needed. Among hospitals not permitting the EOLOA, nearly all allowed providers to follow patients choosing to pursue the EOLOA elsewhere and most permitted a provider to refer to another provider or system. Most hospitals expressed concerns about implementation of the EOLOA and interest in sharing promising practices. Conclusions: This survey of California hospitals demonstrates considerable heterogeneity in implementing the EOLOA. For many Californians, access to the EOLOA depends on where one receives medical care. Implementation would be improved by hospitals and health systems sharing promising practices.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Cain CL; Koenig BA; Starks H; Thomas J; Forbes L; McCleskey S; Wenger NS
  • Start Page

  • 60
  • End Page

  • 66
  • Volume

  • 23
  • Issue

  • 1