Hundreds of Californians received life-ending prescriptions
At least 504 terminally ill Californians have requested a prescription for life-ending drugs since a state law allowing physician-assisted deaths went into effect in June 2016, marking the first publicly released data on how the practice is playing out in the nation’s most populous state.
The number represents only those who have contacted Compassion & Choices, an advocacy group that provides information on the process. The organization believes the overall figure to be much higher. State data has not yet been released.
How the new law is utilized in trend-setting California foreshadows what would happen if the practice spreads nationwide. Some see providing the choice to the dying as a logical evolution in a medical care system advanced in helping people live longer but limited in preventing slow, painful deaths.
Oregon was the first state to adopt such a law in 1997. It said 204 people received prescriptions in 2016 and, of those, 133 people died from ingesting the drugs, including 19 prescription recipients from prior years. Most were older than 65 and had cancer.
Doctor-assisted deaths are also legal in Colorado, Montana, Vermont, Washington state and Washington, D.C.