More than 100 people have legally ended their lives since California enacted a right-to-die law last year, according to a recent report.

Photo via Hamza Butt/Flickr (CC-BY)

More than 100 people ended their lives under California’s right-to-die law since last year

This is the first look at the law since it was enacted in 2016.


Andrew Wyrich


Published Jun 28, 2017   Updated May 23, 2021, 1:33 am CDT

More than 100 people have legally ended their lives since California enacted a right-to-die law last year, according to a new report.

California’s End of Life Option Act became effective in June 2016 and allows adults living in California to obtain and self-administer drugs that help end their lives, according to the California Department of Health (CDPH). Since then, 111 people have taken the legal drugs and ended their lives, according to a report released on Tuesday, the first since the law went into effect.

Of the 111 people who decided to use the law, 75.6 percent were between 60 and 89 years old, according to the CDPH, and 58.6 percent of those who took advantage of the law were diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Neuromuscular disorders, such as Parkinson’s Disease and ALS, were the second largest underlying illness among those who took their own lives under the law, totaling 18 percent of the group.

Since California’s right-to-die law was enacted, 258 individuals began the “end-of-life option process,” according to the state’s report, which requires two verbal requests to their physicians at least 15 days apart. Of those 258 individuals, 173 physicians prescribed the legal aid-in-dying drugs to 191 people. Of that group, 111 people were reported by physicians to have died after ingesting the drug.

Other states have similar right-to-die laws. Oregon became the first state to adopt right-to-die legislation in 1997, and doctor-assisted deaths are legal in Colorado, Montana, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C., according to USA Today.

Critics of the law argue it is unethical for physicians to prescribe medication that would hasten someone’s death.

“It’s really tragic that doctors are now thinking that the best they can do for a patient is to give them a handful of barbiturates and leave them to their own devices,” Alexandra Snyder, an attorney with Life Legal Defense Foundation, told the Los Angeles Times.

For more information about suicide prevention or to speak with someone confidentially, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) or Samaritans (U.K.).

Share this article
*First Published: Jun 28, 2017, 10:42 am CDT