Assisted Suicide Is a White Thing

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

California’s assisted suicide act went into effect last year, and today the Department of Public Health released statistics for 2016. A total of 191 people requested prescriptions for aid-in-dying drugs, and 111 used them. However, because the program is very new, and only covered half the year, these numbers are certain to go up significantly in future years.

Unsurprisingly, the initial statistics confirm what we know from other states that have similar laws: assisted suicide is barely used at all among non-whites.

The reasons for this are not entirely clear. Among Hispanics, it’s probably partly related to religion, since the majority of Hispanics are Catholics and the church forbids suicide. More generally, it’s probably also related to a distrust of doctors among minority groups. Beyond that, I’m not sure anyone really has a persuasive explanation.

Generally speaking, though, the main demographic for assisted suicide is professional, college-educated white folks who are used to being in charge and dislike the idea of losing control over their lives. This was true in the 90s and aughts, when it was illegal and done under the table, and I believe it’s true in every state that’s legalized assisted suicide since then.

UPDATE: Via Twitter, Forrest Sholars points out that assisted suicide is mostly an option for the elderly, and the demographics of those over 60 is different from California’s overall demographics. That’s true, especially for Hispanics, and I intended to mention this in the original post. It just slipped my mind before I published it. So here it is:

There’s still a considerable racial disparity, but it’s somewhat less dramatic than it is when comparing to all age groups.

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate