Terminally Ill Patients End Their Lives Under Calif. Right-To-Die Law

Brandon Parsons
June 29, 2017

Physician-assisted suicide became an option in the state of California on June 9, 2016, when the End of Life Option Act, which was signed into law in September 2015, took effect.

Six months after California passed its "right to die" law, state authorities reported that 111 terminally ill patients chose to end their lives by taking medications.

According to data between June 9- December 31 of 2016, 191 people received aid-in-dying drugs under the act and 111 people died after taking the prescribed drugs. 111 people of these were reported to have died following the consumption of the drugs. The statistics, said supporters of the law, showed that the drugs were being used as a contingency plan by patients in the event their pain becomes intolerable.

Alexandra Snyder, an attorney for Life Legal Defense Foundation and critic of the law, told the Times that there is no way to determine whether a patient was coerced into taking the drug.

But opposition to the law remains.

About 59 percent of patients who ended their lives had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and 18 percent had been diagnosed with neuromuscular disorders like Parkinson's disease and ALS, according to the report.

A similar law has been in place in neighboring OR since 1997.

Physician-assisted deaths made up six out of every 10,000 deaths in California between June and December 2016, according to state data. In 2016 in OR, the number of drug-aided deaths was 37 per 10,000. Each year, on or before July 1, the Department of Public Health must provide prescribed information on those who sought and used aid-in-dying drugs.

The health department also noted that of the 111 individuals who died, 87.4 percent were 60 or older, 96.4 percent had health insurance, and 83.8 percent were receiving hospice or palliative care. Fifty-nine percent of those who died were suffering from cancer.

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