During the first six months of California’s End of Life Option Act (EOLA), nearly 200 people received life-ending prescriptions, according to a new report released by the state’s Department of Public Health.
EOLA allows terminally ill adults to be prescribed and self-administer lethal doses of drugs. After Governor Jerry Brown signed it, the assisted suicide act went into effect on June 9, 2016.
The report analyzed data acquired June 9 through December 31, 2016. During that time, 258 individuals began the end-of-life process with 191 of them being prescribed aid-in-dying drugs by 173 physicians. Of the 191 individuals, 111 died following ingestion of the drugs, 21 died without ingestion of the drugs, and the outcome of the remaining 59 was unknown as of December 31.
The report also compiled data on the patients’ illnesses and found that cancer was the most common:
Of the 111 individuals who died pursuant to EOLA during 2016, the majority, or 58.6 percent, of their underlying illnesses, were identified as malignant neoplasms (cancer). Neuromuscular disorders such as ALS and Parkinson’s accounted for the second largest underlying illness grouping, totaling 18.0 percent. The remaining major categories of underlying illnesses were documented as: heart disease (8.1 percent), lung respiratory diseases (non-cancer) with 6.3 percent, and other underlying illnesses (9.0 percent).
Certain assisted suicide advocates aren’t satisfied with those numbers, however. Dr. Lonny Shavelson, a Berkeley-based physician who travels across the state helping patients get access to aid-in-dying drugs, lamented the fact that 111 deaths was too low a number:
You would think that more than 111 people across the whole state would have availed themselves of this law . . . It means that there are so many people who cannot get a doctor to work with them.
Matt Whitaker, California State Director of an assisted suicide advocacy organization called Compassion & Choices, said that the data shows “the law was working well,” despite the fact that the group had initially predicted that 1,500 lethal prescriptions would be written during the first year.
Perhaps trying to get the numbers higher, journalists continue attempting to glamorize assisted suicide:
On a Monday last August, he [Tom House] spent the morning sharing memories with family and friends, according to NBC Bay Area. Then, with a doctor’s prescription, he drank a fatal dose of barbiturates from his favorite coffee mug and chased it with a martini. Less than an hour later, he was dead.
The media needs to stop idealizing “death with dignity” and call it what it is — suicide. Why is it that our society expresses remorse when some people commit suicide, but not when others do? How does the fact that a physician endorses some suicides somehow justify them? Every time someone takes his or her own life, it is a tragedy. The deaths of 111 people are 111 too many.