12:11 GMT +321 January 2020
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    California's controversial End of Life Option Act went into effect on Thursday, eight months after being signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.

    The law allows mentally capable adults who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and given six months or less to live, the option of being prescribed pharmaceuticals to end their life when they choose.

    Opponents of the bill argue that it will place people — particularly the elderly — at the risk of coercion, as there is no requirement for witnesses to be present during the death.

    A group called Californians Against Assisted Suicide claimed that people may feel forced to end their own lives to prevent being burdening their families with medical bills.

    "That is very telling, certainly when you are looking at the economic diversity across the board," Tim Rosales, a spokesman for Californians Against Assisted Suicide, told Mercury News.

    Data from states that allow the right to die indicates that very few people request the prescription. About ⅓ of those who are prescribed the drugs do not use them.

    In 2015, Oregon issued 218 prescriptions. Mercury News reported that 132 used the drugs to end their own lives, as of mid January. Similarly, 176 prescriptions were written in Washington in 2014, and 126 patients used them to end their lives.

    As California is a much more densely populated state, officials estimate that approximately 1,500 residents will seek the drugs annually.


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