SAN DIEGO — Some see providing the choice to the dying as a logical evolution in a medical care system advanced in helping people live longer but limited in preventing slow, painful deaths.

At least 504 terminally ill Californians have requested a prescription for life-ending drugs since a state law allowing physician-assisted deaths went into effect in June 2016, marking the first publicly released data on how the practice is playing out in the nation’s most populous state.

The number represents only those who have contacted Compassion & Choices, an advocacy group that provides information on the process.

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The organization believes the overall figure to be much higher.

The group released the data Thursday. State officials have not released figures yet.

How the new law is utilized in trend-setting California could provide a window to what would happen if the practice spreads nationwide.

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