California’s embattled assisted suicide law was used by 374 people to end their lives in 2017, state officials said Friday.
The California Department of Public Health reported 577 people received drugs to end their lives, according to The Associated Press. In addition to the 374 who died after taking the drugs, another 86 people died after a prescription was written for the drugs, but before they could use them.
Supporters of the law, which took effect in June 2016, said the law is working as intended
“The worst case scenarios predicted by opponents to the Act have not come to fruition,” California state Sen. Bill Monning, a Democrat, told the AP in a statement. “To me, this indicates that physicians are talking to their patients and that their patients are being thoughtful in considering the use of the Act.”
Data showed most recipients were college educated and had hospice or similar care, which “helps to refute some of the claims that were made by those opposed to the process” that those taking the drugs were uneducated or lacking in other options, said Ashley Cardenas, policy and programs director for the advocacy organization Compassion & Choices, AP reported.
About 90 percent of the Californians who used the law to kill themselves were more than 60 years old, state officials said, while about 95 percent were insured. The median age of those who died was 74.
The law was declared unconstitutional last month, but was then reinstated June 15 pending further court battles, the AP reported.
In May Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia shelved the law because it was adopted in a special session called for another issue.
“This ruling affirms that assisted suicide advocates circumvented the legislative process,” Matt Valliere, executive director of the New York-based Patients Rights Action Fund, which opposes legalizing physician-assisted suicide, said at the time, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“It represents a tremendous blow to the assisted suicide legalization movement and puts state legislatures on notice regarding the political trickery of groups like Compassion and Choices,” he said.
“California should provide vulnerable people with authentic help, not this dangerous so-called medical treatment.” A procedural error has overturned California’s assisted suicide law, giving the court an opportunity to right this wrong.
— CBC Network (@CBCnetwork) June 23, 2018
However, California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals last week ruled that the law can remain in effect while the two sides argue the issue in court.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called that decision a “relief” to “California patients, their families, and doctors.”
“This stay is a huge win for many terminally ill Californians with six months or less to live because it could take years for the courts to resolve this case,” Kevin Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices, said in a statement, according to LifeNews.
— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) June 20, 2018
However, writing in National Review even before the appeals court acted, author and conservative commentator Wesley J. Smith, had a different perspective.
“What will happen now? I assume that the ever-more-radical legislature will try and pass a new law, if the current ruling stands on appeal. It would also not surprise me if an appeals court stays the ruling as many judges are results oriented,” Smith wrote.
“But doctors should pause in their lethal prescription writing, at least for now. Moreover, it allows opponents of assisted suicide the rare opportunity to present their arguments in a media that often ignores or misstates their views. Finally, this stumble for the suicide forces illustrates that their death agenda isn’t inevitable. Opponents will never stop fighting through every possible peaceful, legal, and democratic process,” he wrote.
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