504 California patients opted for physician-assisted suicide during first year of law

It’s been almost a year since California’s law that allows physician-assisted suicide went into effect, and at least 504 terminally ill adults have received prescriptions to end their lives, according to an advocacy group.

The California law, which went into effect on June 9, 2016, gives mentally competent, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication to end their own lives. In an announcement, Compassion & Choices said the law is working as intended and that 504 people had received prescriptions based on inquiries to its consultation program. The group said the total number of prescriptions statewide will be significantly higher since not every patient would have contacted the advocacy group.

State officials have not released figures yet as the anniversary of the law approaches, according to an Associated Press report via The New York Times.

Compassion & Choices reports that 498 healthcare facilities and 104 hospice centers in California have adopted policies to support doctors who choose to participate in the law. More than 80% of insurance companies in the state also cover the cost of the drugs, the group said.

California is one of six states where medical aid in dying is authorized, including Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington—along with the District of Columbia.

In New York, a court battle went on this week over the issue. New York state's highest court took up the debate over physician-assisted suicide Tuesday, hearing arguments in a case filed by terminally ill patients who want the right to request life-ending drugs from their physicians, according to the Associated Press via U.S. News World Report.

The California law is not without opponents who are trying to overturn the End of Life Option Act in court. The next hearing in that case is scheduled for June 16.

Related: Physician-assisted suicide raises ethical questions for doctors

The ethical questions surrounding physician-assisted suicide were back in the headlines with President Donald Trump’s choice of Neil M. Gorsuch, who is on record as deeply opposing assisted death, to the Supreme Court.