End-of-Life Care: Patient Notification Laws

Currently, health facilities including hospitals and hospices are regulated and licensed by the California Department of Public Health. If it happens that a licensed health care provider diagnoses a patient as terminal, the provider is legally required to inform the patient of all choices they have concerning both medical care and end-of-life care.

A recent change to this law proposes to include some other person, named by the patient or their power of attorney, to the people who shall be given the information described below. This information includes the facts concerning available care as well as fact that the information itself must be given once a terminal diagnosis has been pronounced.

To accomplish the broadening of the people covered by the law, section 442.5 of the California Health and Safety Code was amended. Some of the changes, in a descriptive form not meant to be considered the legal wording, include the provision that at the time a licensed provider of health care diagnoses a condition as being terminal, the following, among other duties, must be met:

  • The notification of the person with the condition will now also include some other person who has been named by the patient or another authority, to make health care, including end-of-life care decisions. This information is to consist of not only of medical care choices, but also including counseling for the patient to deal emotionally and psychologically with their situation.
  • The availability of Hospice care both at home or in a facility.
  • The providing of prognoses that can be compared between the maintaining of ailment-specific measures and the stoppage of such procedures.
  • The iron-clad guarantee of the ailing person’s consistent right of the refusing of any further life-prolonging methods, including the cessation of feeding and breathing aids.
  • The ability of the affected individual to have access to any and all pain management medicines, including but not limited to drugs used to help manage end-of-life events.
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