The California Department of Public Health has just released a report that detailed the number of terminally ill patients over the past year who took advantage of the California End-of-Life Options Act (EOLA), a law that allows certain patients to request a lethal dose of medication to end their lives. This report comes a year after EOLA went into effect on June 9, 2016. According to the report, 258 individuals began the end-of-life process, which requires multiple oral and written requests and discussions with doctors before receiving the medication. Of this group, 90 patients received a prescription to end life but did not take it, while 111 individuals died from ingesting the drugs. Supporters believe aid-in-dying laws are important for terminal patients because they provide an option to end life on their terms, rather than in a hospital or hospice setting.
"Years ago, families grew up, lived in a certain area for all their lives practically," he says. "And when there was an end-of-life experience, they were surrounded by friends, family that they had known forever that very much wanted to be a part of that remembrance, if you will. Now that doesn't happen nearly as often. And if you look at the areas where the cremation rate seems to be the highest, I think that seems to happens even less. So I think that plays a part in it. The support systems for some of these families are not what they were 40 or 50 years ago in end-of-life experiences. Families have become more fragmented. I think all those things play a part in that."
Many physicians say they are nervous about prescribing lethal doses of drugs for the terminally ill. The law in the nation's most populous state took decades to pass and goes into effect June 9. There are concerns it will lead to hasty decisions, misdiagnosis, and even waning support by insurers for palliative care, in which dying people can be sedated to relieve their suffering.