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111 Prescribed Patients Opted To Use End Of Life Medication

Carol Yeates at her home Oct. 7, 2016. Yeates decided to take the end-of-life prescription instead of continuing her fight with cancer and Parkinson's disease.

 

One hundred ninety-one terminally ill people received California's End of Life medication during the first six months of the law's existence. The California Department of Public Health released the statistics Tuesday.

The report shows of the 191 who got the medicine, 111 people eventually used it to end their life. Matt Whitaker is the California State director with Compassion and Choices, a non-profit group that advocates for access to End of Life medication.

"What a huge deal it is that these 173 physicians wrote these 191 prescriptions," Whitaker says. "You know, that really shows that the practice is not some marginalized medical practice that's happening by a small handful of people across the state, which was one of the fears that was raised during the debate about the law."

Whitaker argues the report illustrates the law is working as it is intended, but there are still systematic barriers to access. The state currently doesn't track people who were denied access to the life-ending medication.

Of those who died, 87 percent were 60 years old or older; most were white, college educated, receiving hospice or palliative care and had health insurance, either provided by the state or private carriers.

 End of Life Option Act

Chris Remington

Producer, Insight

Chris joined Capital Public Radio’s “Insight with Beth Ruyak” in September 2016, booking a wide variety of guests, developing questions and producing music elements for the program.  Read Full Bio 

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