He Has Helped More People Die in California Than Anyone

The Atlantic looks at aid in dying and the work of Dr. Lonny Shavelson
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 6, 2021 4:05 PM CST
He Has Helped More People Die in California Than Anyone
   (Getty Images)

Dr. Lonny Shavelson stopped taking new patients in August. It's unclear who, if anyone, will pick up his slack. Shavelson's Bay Area End of Life Options is thought to be the only practice of its kind in America—where aid-in-dying is now legal in nine states—and he is thought to have aided with more deaths in California than any other doctor. However, in a lengthy piece for the Atlantic, Katie Engelhart writes that he would say that's mostly due to other doctors' unwillingness to perform assisted deaths or their employers' rules against it. As for the California End of Life Option Act that gives him the right, it's a "sh---y law," he tells Engelhart. She examines that through the lens of Bradshaw Perkins' death, who had prostate cancer and had been given three months to live.

Under the law, Jenkins had to tell Shavelson what he was sick with, sign a "Final Attestation," and administer the drugs himself, in this case, by drinking them in two stages. That's a problem in the view of Shavelson, who has met patients without the ability to lift a glass or swallow. "He hated the idea that, effectively, a man with prostate cancer might have more rights than a man with esophageal cancer," writes Engelhart. Pushing against the limits of the law, Shavelson got clarification from the California Medical Board that its language about a patient needing to "ingest" the drugs could refer to anything involving the gastrointestinal system, so he has made use of feeding tubes and rectal catheters. "We're winging it here," he admits. "I am inventing an entire new field of medicine." Some are taking issue with that, particularly the "tinkering" of the drug protocols he has done. (Read the full story for much more.)

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