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California vets frustrated at ban on end-of-life drugs: 'I came here to die

Residents of veterans homes run by the California Department of Veterans Affairs cannot utilize end-of-life medication. Some veterans are frustrated that they are banned from end-of-life drugs unless they move. (Image source: KOVR-TV video screenshot)

Some California veterans who want to take life-ending medication under California’s right-to-die law are prevented from doing so by the California Department of Veterans Affairs, KOVR-TV reported.

What’s the story?

In 2015, California passed the End of Life Option Act, which allows “an individual who is an adult with capacity to make medical decisions and with a terminal disease” to “make a request to receive a prescription for an aid-in-dying drug.”

But veterans who live in California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) homes face eviction if they choose the end-of-life option.

CalVet doesn’t allow physicians to administer the end-of-life medication in its homes because, even though it's legal by California state law, the department said it has concerns over losing federal funding.

Instead, CalVet says it would assist anyone who wants to take aid-in-dying drugs in “relocating to a hospice, family home or other location.”

‘I came here to die’

Some veterans in the eight CalVet homes in California are frustrated that they are banned from end-of-life drugs unless they move, because for someone near the end of their life suffering from a terminal illness, moving is not a reasonable option.

“To be evicted on the last days of my life would be the hardest thing I can imagine on me,” veteran Bob Sloan told KOVR. “How can a person, in the last six months of their life, if they’re in such pain or agony, maybe they don’t have the strength, or whatever, to make a move?”

Sloan said he and many other residents are clear about why they’re in these homes, and what stage of life they’re at.

“I came here with the same purpose as just about everybody else that came here," Sloan said. "I came here to die.”

Sloan and some other veterans are trying to find someone to draft legislation that would allow people in CalVet homes to utilize end-of-life medication, but they haven’t found any lawmakers to do that yet.

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