Californians terminated lives under aid-in-dying law past year


Though California is far more diverse than OR, the majority of those who have died under aid-in-dying laws in both states were white, college-educated cancer patients older than 60.

During the first six months since assisted suicide became legal in the state of California, 111 people ended their own lives using drugs prescribed by their doctors.

The data was part of the California Department of Public Health's first report on the law since it went into effect June 9, 2016.

The information, generated from doctors' forms that required submission from June to December 31, 2016, stated that 191 people asked for drugs that would end their lives after being diagnosed with less than six months to live.

But the California's law gained momentum after Brittany Maynard, who moved from California to Oregon, where she could legally die with medication prescribed under the Oregon Death With Dignity Act. Of those, only 58 percent were actually used by patients and another 11 percent died without ingesting the drugs. A little over 87% of the 111 were over 60 years old, and 83.8% were receiving hospice or hospital care. The data showed that 191 prescriptions had been written, so 80 people had not taken the drugs at the time of the survey.

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Writing the lethal prescriptions is completely voluntary for doctors and medical facilities, and some, including all Catholic and church-affiliated hospitals, have not allowed their physicians to prescribe such medicines.

California became the fourth state to pass a law offering the option to terminally ill people, joining Oregon, Washington and Vermont. Race figures include people with multiple ethnicities, which accounts for the discrepancy between the announced total and individual numbers of people who took the drugs.

"Basically it mirrors the experience in Oregon", Burkin said. Most were older than 65 and had cancer.

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