The 2008 Summary of Oregon's Death with Dignity Act was released on March 3, 2009.
The report stated that:
During 2008, 88 prescriptions for lethal medications were written under the provisions of the DWDA compared to 85 during 2007 (and 65 during 2006). Of these, 54 patients took the (lethal) medications, 22 died of their underlying disease, and 12 were alive at the end of 2008. In addition, 6 people with earlier prescriptions died from taking the (lethal) medications, resulting in a total of 60 DWDA deaths during 2008, which was up from 49 DWDA deaths during 2007 and 46 DWDA deaths during 2006. This corresponds to an estimated 19.4 DWDA deaths per 10,000 total deaths, up from an estimated 14.7 DWDA deaths per 10,000 total death in 2006.
There has therefore been an increase by 30% in the total estimated DWDA deaths in two years between 2006 - 2008.
The report stated that:
- 59 physicians wrote 88 prescriptions
- Since the law was passed in 1997, 401 people died under the terms of the law.
- 78% were between 55 and 84 years of age, 98% were white, 60% were well educated, 80% were believed to have cancer, and the median age was 72 years old.
- 97% had some form of health insurance,
- The stated reason for wanting suicide assistance were - 95% loss of autonomy, 92% decreasing ability to participate in activities, 92% loss of dignity, 5% (3 people) inadequate pain control
- No complications were reported in 2008.
- 2 referrals were made to the Oregon Medical Board for incorrectly completed reporting forms. The Oregon Medical Board found no violations of "good faith compliance" with the act and did not sanction any physicians for "unprofessional conduct" regarding the Act.
- 2 people were referred for a psychiatric evaluation, up from none last year.
The annual report continues to lack the essential information for determining the social context of these decisions and the reporting system continues to lack any safeguards for the people who die by assisted suicide based on the fact that reporting is completed by the physician who prescribes the lethal drugs while the physician was only present at the time of ingesting the lethal drugs 11 times or (18.3%). Further, there are no third party reports or investigations to ensure that the cases fulfilled the requirements of the law and/or that the reports are accurately reported and there are no investigations to confirm that reports were submitted for all assisted suicide deaths.
In otherwords, we do not know whether other assisted suicide deaths occured and we do not know if any of the people who died by assisted suicide were socially pressured or died outside of the guidelines of the law. The Oregon Death with Dignity Act relies on physicians to submit reports based on their own decisions or actions. It is unlikely that a physician would submit a report that admits to decisions or actions that are outside of the legal parameters.
Even though concerns about inadequate pain control are the reason that most people support legalizing assisted suicide, only 3 of the 60 people who died by assisted suicide in Oregon listed concerns about inadequate pain control as a reason for them to request assisted suicide.
The 2008 report, like the previous reports lacks the necessary information to assure the public that all is well in Oregon. As the Oregonian Editorial Board stated on September 20, 2008 in their article: Washington state's assisted suicide measure: Don't go there: Oregon's physician-assisted suicide program has not been sufficiently transparent. Essentially, a coterie of insiders run the program, with a handful of doctors and others deciding what the public may know. We're aware of no substantiated abuses, but we'd feel more confident with more sunlight on the program.
Link to the Oregonian Editorial comment: Washington state's assisted suicide measure: Don't go there:
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, Phone toll free: 1-877-439-3348, Email: email@example.com, Website: www.epcc.ca