Report Tallies Assisted Suicide’s First Half-Year

Prior to the passage of California’s End of Life Option Act, physicians like Dr. Charity Dean were worried they could run afoul of the law by providing medically assisted suicide.
Paul Wellman (file)

The first report on California’s End of Life Option Act counted 258 terminally ill individuals statewide who initiated the process of ending their own lives in the last six months of 2016. Of that number, 191 were approved by their physicians and issued life-ending prescriptions; 111 actually took their own lives. The newly released numbers do not include a county-by-county breakdown, but at least one Santa Barbara cancer patient was given — and took — a fatal overdose of secobarbital sodium. Statewide, an additional 21 died before taking the drug.

The majority of those opting out — 58.6 percent — were suffering from various forms of cancer. After that, the largest group suffered from neurotransmitter diseases like Parkinson’s. Mirroring the experience of Oregon, which has allowed physician-assisted suicide for some time, the vast majority of Californians to avail themselves of the new law — 90 percent — were white and more than half had college degrees or more.

The law allows individuals given only six months to live to seek an overdose prescription. They must be tested for mental competence and psychiatric soundness, must ask at least two times — with a 15-day gap in between — and get a second opinion from someone other than their personal physician.

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