- Effective yesterday, terminally ill patients in California can choose to end their lives early, aided by their physician, Vox reported.
- The new state law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) last October, lets doctors prescribe lethal drugs to patients who have less than six months to live.
- Momentum for the measure gained steam after 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who had brain cancer, moved from California to Oregon to take advantage of the state’s death with dignity law.
Under the California law, patients must verbally request the drugs twice and 15 days apart, and get two physicians — their primary doctor and a consulting one—to approve a written request. Unlike Jack Kevorkian, the euthanasia activist who administered lethal doses of medications to terminally ill patients at their request, California patients administer the drugs.
In addition to Oregon and California, other states with aid-in-dying laws include Washington, Vermont and New Hampshire. None of the states allow physicians to administer the lethal doses.
Actual use of the laws has been not been as great as some critics expected. Since 1998, when Oregon’s law took effect, 991 people have died by taking prescribed lethal medications, and another 554 obtained a prescription but never used it, The Los Angeles Times reported. Of those who chose to take the lethal drugs, 92% cited loss of autonomy as a reason for doing so, 90% feared a loss in quality of life and 79% worried about loss of dignity.
In addition in Oregon, 77% who sought help in dying had cancer and 71% who chose assisted death had some college education. The average time from first request to death was 46 days.