Once again the Oregon Death With Dignity Act is more about numbers than actual information. It is important to note that there are no case reports connected to the annual report and there is no guarantee that all the cases have been reported.
The number of reported deaths has risen in 2007 to 49 from 46 reported deaths in 2006. More interesting was the fact that the number of prescriptions rose to 85 in 2007 from 65 in 2006. 3 of the 49 deaths in 2007 received their prescription in 2006.
Out of the 85 prescriptions in 2007, 46 died from assisted suicide, 26 died of their underlying disease, 13 were alive at the end of 2007.
The most frequently mentioned end-of-life concerns were: loss of autonomy (100%), decreased ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (86%), and loss of dignity (86%). (33%) stated that they were concerned about inadequate pain control in 2007, which is up from (26%) in 2006. It must be noted that their is no differentiation in the report between a patients lack of adequate pain control at the time of asking for the prescription from a patients fear of inadequate pain in the future.
There were complication reported in 3 patients. They all regurgitated some of the medication. One person lived 3.5 days. The question is not answered as to how the complications were dealt with. We also must question the total number of complications knowing that the physician was present at the assisted suicide only 22% of the time.
None of the people who died by assisted suicide were referred for a psychiatric or psychological evaluation in 2007. It appears that the "safeguards" in Oregon are either being ignored or every physician who prescribes death for their patients are also experts at detecting symptoms of depression.
Since 1997 - 341 patients have been reported to die from assisted suicide in Oregon.
By: Alex Schadenberg
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
For a summary of the Oregon Death With Dignity Act annual report for 2007, issued 18 March 2008, go to: http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/pas/orhttp://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/pas/docs/year10.pdf