Oregon, USA

 

In the State of Oregon people are allowed to access assisted suicide by receiving lethal drugs from a doctor if they are diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months.1

However, during 2016 people took the drugs up to 18 months (539 days) after receiving them, with a record of three years and nine months (1009 days) in previous years.2

According to the  7.6% received lethal drugs for what seems to be chronic rather than terminal conditions,3 including diabetes, hepatitis, “benign and uncertain neoplasms” and HIV/AIDS which is no longer a terminal illness.4

The law requires that a doctor waits at least 15 days before issuing a prescription, but, some patients knew their prescribing physician for less than one week.5

Of those who received lethal drugs, only 64% are known to have ingested it, leaving at least 622 lethal doses in the community like loaded guns.6

In all cases it is unknown whether the person was pressured leading up the request and the moment of ingestion.

In meetings with a British House of Lords Committee Oregon officials conceded that “there’s no way to know if additional deaths went unreported” because the Oregon Health Authority “has no regulatory authority or resources to ensure compliance with the law”.7

They rely on the word of doctors prescribing the drugs. The officials admitted: “For that matter the entire account [received from a prescribing doctor] could have been a cock-and-bull story.”8

So much for “strict safeguards”!


 

Assisted suicide is not necessarily quick

 
It has taken people up to 60 minutes to become unconscious and up to four days and eight hours (104 hours) to die after ingesting the drugs, but in more than half of cases the time was not recorded. 9
 
 

A dignified, painless death is not guaranteed

 
Known complications include vomiting with the risk of inhalation as well as regaining consciousness even after 65 hours10 However, in 48% of cases it was not recorded whether there were complications.11  
 

Assisted suicide is granted without assessing the person’s mental health

 
In 2016, only 5 people who received assisted suicide were referred for a psychiatric evaluation.12

 

Only a tiny percentage of terminally ill people die from assisted suicide

 
In 2014, less than 1 % (0.91 %) of patients with terminal cancer died from assisted suicide (7213out of 7,86214).
 
In the same year, only 13 % of patients with ALS died from assisted suicide (1715out of 12916).
 

It’s not really about pain

 

People request assisted suicide mainly for non-physical, psychological and existential reasons – not physical pain. The most common end-of-life concern cited is concern about losing autonomy (91%), followed by concern about being less able to engage in activvities making life enjoable (90%) and loss of dignity (77%). About 42% cited a concern about being a burden on family, friends and caregivers. Only 47% were concerned about the possibility of losing control of bodily functions and only 26% were concerned about inadequate pain control.17

Reasons for requesting assisted suicide in Oregon USA

Show 17 footnotes

  1. Oregon Health Authority. About the Death With Dignity Act. Retrieved from http://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/PROVIDERPARTNERRESOURCES/EVALUATIONRESEARCH/DEATHWITHDIGNITYACT/Pages/faqs.aspx#whatis
  2. Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division (2017, February 21). Oregon Death with Dignity Act Data Summary 2016. p.11. Retrieved from http://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/PROVIDERPARTNERRESOURCES/EVALUATIONRESEARCH/DEATHWITHDIGNITYACT/Documents/year19.pdf
  3. Ibid. pp. 9,11
  4. Whitflield, R.G. in Bronner, A. (2007, July 12). The Doc is in: Is HIV a terminal illness? Retrieved from http://h2doc.com/uploads/File/AOL%207-12-07(1).pdf
  5. Ibid. p.11
  6. Ibid. p.5
  7.  Linda Prager, “Details emerge on Oregon’s first assisted suicides, ” American Medical News, Sept. 7, 1998. in Patients Rights Council. Ten Years of Assisted Suicide in Oregon. Retrieved from http://www.patientsrightscouncil.org/site/oregon-ten-years/
  8. Oregon Health Division, CD Summary, vol. 48, no. 6 (March 16, 1999), p. 2. in Patients Rights Council. Ten Years of Assisted Suicide in Oregon. Retrieved from http://www.patientsrightscouncil.org/site/oregon-ten-years/
  9. Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division (2017, February 21). Oregon Death with Dignity Act Data Summary 2016. p.11. Retrieved from http://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/PROVIDERPARTNERRESOURCES/EVALUATIONRESEARCH/DEATHWITHDIGNITYACT/Documents/year19.pdf
  10. Associated Press, “Assisted suicide attempt fails,” March 4, 2005. in Patients Rights Council. Ten Years of Assisted Suicide in Oregon. Retrieved from http://www.patientsrightscouncil.org/site/oregon-ten-years/
  11. Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division (2017, February 21). Oregon Death with Dignity Act Data Summary 2016. p.10. Retrieved from http://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/PROVIDERPARTNERRESOURCES/EVALUATIONRESEARCH/DEATHWITHDIGNITYACT/Documents/year19.pdf
  12. Ibid. p.9
  13. Oregon Public Health Division (2015, February 2). Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act –2014. p.5. Retrieved from http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Documents/year17.pdf
  14. Oregon Health Authority (2015, November). Leading causes of death by county of residence. Oregon vital statistics data 2014, Table 18. Retrieved from https://public.health.oregon.gov/BirthDeathCertificates/VitalStatistics/annualreports/CountyDataBook/Documents/2014/table18-2014.pdf
  15. Oregon Public Health Division (2015, February 2). Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act –2014. p.5. Retrieved from http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Documents/year17.pdf
  16. Oregon Health Authority (2015, November). Leading causes of death by county of residence. Oregon vital statistics data 2014, Table 18. Retrieved from https://public.health.oregon.gov/BirthDeathCertificates/VitalStatistics/annualreports/CountyDataBook/Documents/2014/table18-2014.pdf
  17. Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division (2017, February 21). Oregon Death with Dignity Act Data Summary 2016. p.10. Retrieved from http://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/PROVIDERPARTNERRESOURCES/EVALUATIONRESEARCH/DEATHWITHDIGNITYACT/Documents/year19.pdf

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