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Assisted Suicide Coming to California!

Good Monday to you, dear readers!  Are you still reeling from the daylight savings time change (which, in part, explains the lateness of today’s blog post)?  Your humble blogger is not a big fan of change… let alone time changes that upset routines.

Anywho, I have a rather grim topic for my beloved readers today – suicide.  Now, as we know, Labor Code section 3600(a)(6) bars recovery for any claim where an employee has “willfully and deliberately caused his or her own death.”

But, California is not monolithic in any sense.  We have areas of the State focused on agriculture and other areas focused on future technology and space travel, allowing Californians to grown ancient crops on “smart” soil.  We have Health and Safety Code section 11362.785(d) which specifically holds that health insurance will not be required to reimburse costs associated with the use of medical marijuana, and we also have a medical marijuana program, allowing Californians to take a puff of green weeds while smoking away their green bills.

Starting June 9, 2016, we will have yet another such contradiction: the End of Life Option Act will allow an adult with a terminal disease (likely to result in death within six months), to be provided with a lethal overdose of drugs if he or she wishes to end his or her life.  Just think of the implications for workers’ compensation:

Would the workers’ compensation insurer be expected to pay for this lethal dose?  After all, if the symptoms of an industrial injury are such that they are causing excruciating pain and suffering, wouldn’t the medical overdose “cure or relieve from effects of” the injury? (Labor Code section 4600(a)).

Would the employee’s dependents (or the death without dependents unit) be entitled to death benefits?  When the effects of an industrial injury causes a psychiatric condition, which ultimately results in an accidental overdose or intentional suicide, the death has been held compensable even in the face of section 3600.  What happens when the symptoms resulting from an industrial injury lead the injured worker to contemplate suicide?

What happens when the condition is the result of a synergistic effect between an industrial injury and an on-industrial one?

One of the requirements of the act is that a physician certify that the condition is likely to be terminal within the next six months.  But is it really unrealistic to think that a physician will certify something as terminal even when it’s not, especially when the likely result of the condition is a lifetime of pain and suffering?

There are physicians now that gleefully wink and nod and put injured workers on temporary disability or fudge the causation analysis because of some misguided self-perception of an “advocate” or to secure future referrals from the applicants’ bar.  There are even doctors, some might describe aptly as evil, that refer uneducated injured workers to unnecessary spinal surgeries, to be maimed.  Is it really beyond the scope of probability that there are compassionate doctors out there, ready to falsely certify a condition as terminal at the request of suffering patients?

Section 443.13(a)(2) of the Act holds that “death resulting from the self-administering of an aid-in-dying drug is not suicide, and therefore health and insurance coverage shall not be exempted on that basis” but 3600 does not use the word suicide, only that the employee “willfully and deliberately caused his or her own death.”

Needless to say, this law is a serious one, and will offer serious implications in those grim cases where it intertwines with workers’ compensation.  As the saying goes, dear readers, send money, guns, and bloggers lawyers.

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