Six months after California passed its “right to die” law, state authorities reported that 111 terminally ill patients decided to end their lives by taking medications.
The law, first introduced in 2016, allows patients who are terminally ill to voluntarily take their lives. This data is the California Department of Public Health’s first report on the effects of the law since it was implemented on June 9, 2016, Fox News reports.
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. Of those, 111 died.
Twenty-one more patients died before they could take the drugs. Results on the 59 others who received the drugs but did not die were not reported on in the six-month time frame, the report says.
Among the 111 patients, 87% were 60 years and older.
Most of them were white, college educated, had health insurance provided by either private or state carriers, and were receiving hospice or palliative care. The median age was 73, and majority of the patients had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
A total of 173 doctors filled out prescriptions for the life-ending drugs.
How this new law takes effect in the nation’s most populous state could provide some insight as to what might happen should other states push their own laws. Doctor-assisted deaths are likewise legal in Colorado, Montana, Vermont, Washington state and Washington D.C.
State officials warn that people should be cautious in drawing hasty conclusions from this report, as it only covers six months of data.
Christian Burkin, spokesperson for California Assembly member Susan Talamantes Eggman, said that the data may be limited, but the numbers show that the End of Life Option Act is being implemented the way Eggman and other authors of the law intended it to work. He said, “Basically it mirrors the experience in Oregon.”
Oregon was the first state to adopt this kind of law in 1997. Last year, the state reported 2014 people who received prescriptions for life-ending drugs, 133 of whom died. Most of the patients were older than 65 and also been diagnosed with terminal cancer.