Speed Reads

Life and Death

In 2016, 111 terminally ill people ended their lives under new California law

The End of Life Option Act went into effect in California in June 2016, and by December, 111 terminally ill people had requested and taken life-ending drugs from their doctors.

The state is the fifth in the country to let people with less than six months to live choose to die with the assistance of drugs. Data released Tuesday shows that 191 people received prescriptions, but not all of the patients ended up using the drugs. Of those who did end their lives, 59 percent had cancer, 54 percent were women, and 90 percent were white. Doctors do not have to write the prescriptions if they are not comfortable doing so, and they do not have to refer their patients to doctors who will. In order to get a prescription, two doctors must confirm that the patient has no more than six months left to live and that he or she is of sound mental capacity.

One of the Californians who chose to end his life was John Minor, 80, who was living with extremely painful terminal lung disease. In September, the retired psychologist had lost 80 pounds and could barely eat or talk, and after switching health-care providers, he found a doctor willing to write him a prescription for the life-ending drugs. He took them, surrounded by family. "John did what was right for him," his widow, Sherry Minor, told the Los Angeles Times. "He died peacefully, rather than in agony, and he was in control. He didn't feel afraid or helpless."