Institute for Health and Aging Symposium

Written by IHA Professor and Director Wendy Max, Professor and UCSF Bioethics Director Barbara Koenig, and UCSF Bioethics Program Manager Lindsay Forbes

photo from flyer of event

The Institute for Health & Aging held its fourth biannual symposium on May 10 to discuss the recently passed End of Life Option Act. This new legislation will allow physicians to provide terminally ill patients medication to end their lives under very specific circumstances, and it will also permit healthcare institutions to allow or forbid their staff from participating. The symposium, organized and moderated by IHA’s Professor of Medical Anthropology and Bioethics Barbara Koenig, PhD, is the inaugural event for the new UCSF Bioethics program, which Dr. Koenig directs.

photo of panelists

The symposium panelists reported on the discussions of a response conference that met last December, when Governor Brown signed into law the new End of Life Option Act. This law will go into effect on June 9, 2016, and there was much uncertainty as to how different healthcare organizations would implement it, creating what Dr. Koenig called a “bioethics emergency.” The task force brought together palliative care specialists, ethics committees, and individuals from California, Oregon, and Washington to discuss and think through the implications of the new act.

symposium participants

Three speakers at the symposium discussed different aspects of the new legislation. UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science & Health Policy Executive Director and Adjunct Professor of Law Sarah Hooper, JD, described the terms and provisions of the law. Associate Professor of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington Helene Starks, PhD, MPH, shared the experiences of Washington and Oregon with their physician aid-in-dying laws. UCSF Clinical Fellow and a VA Quality Scholar Laura Petrillo, MD, presented a palliative care perspective. The event was attended by nearly 100 people, and generated lively audience discussion. To watch the event's full coverage, click here.

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