Friday, January 28, 2011

Physician-Assisted Suicides in Oregon in 2010 Even More Unknown Information

The 2010, annual Oregon Death with Dignity report was recently released.

The most important message is what it doesn't tell us. It doesn't tell us whether the person who died consented when the lethal dose was administered.

Further to that, the physician is rarely present at the time the lethal dose is administered. If the person does not consent, who would know?

The reporting system has a conflict of interest, whereby the physician who wrote the lethal prescription submits the report. The physician will not admit to abuse.

The Physicians for Compassionate Care sent out a press release yesterday concerning the 2010 Death with Dignity annual report from Oregon. Link to the press release

Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation

Press Release January 27, 2011

Physician-Assisted Suicides in Oregon in 2010 - Even More Unknown Information


The annual report from the Oregon Public Health Division (OPHD) regarding physician-assisted suicides in 2010 has been released this month, and contains information received by them as of January 7, 2011. This release of information is occurring two months earlier in the year than for prior years’ reports. Because of the hastiness in releasing the report, they acknowledge that not all information for 2010 has been received by them. PCCEF is concerned with multiple areas of the OPHD report on Oregon assisted suicides for the 2010 year.

* The report is incomplete. Specifically, they have not received information on 15 patients for whom prescriptions were written in 2010.

* The report acknowledges 65 individuals who died from physician-assisted suicide in 2010, yet concedes there may be others who have died in 2010 for whom they have not received information.

* Not all who attempt to take the [lethal dose] will die. Overdoses failed to cause two individuals to die. One regained consciousness within 24 hours and died of the underlying illness five days later. Another gained consciousness 3½ days after ingestion and died of the underlying illness three months later. Vomiting was reported in both people. These are not easy drugs to take, and they are very bitter and foul-tasting drugs. The report fails to detail why these two people chose not to repeat an overdose. Perhaps they found the experience less pleasant than the promoters led them to believe.

* Only one of the 65 had a psychiatric or psychological referral. OHSU researchers in 2008 reported that 25% of patients requesting assisted suicide were considered to be depressed. There continues to be no protection for depressed patients in Oregon.

* The report has far more unknown information than has ever previously been reported:

Category Unknown Information

* Complications for 37 of 65 patients
* Emergency Medical Services called for 37 of 65 patients
* Minutes between ingestion & unconsciousness for 33 of 65 patients
* Minutes between ingestion & death for 33 of 65 patients

When such a substantial proportion of important information is unknown, how are Oregonians to know what is really happening with assisted suicides in the state?

Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation promotes the ethic that all human life has inherent value and that physician-assisted suicide:

* Undermines trust in the patient-physician relationship.

* Changes the societal role of the physician from healing to medical killing.

* Endangers the value that society places on life, specifically for those who are most vulnerable, those who are frail, elderly, and at the end of life.

2 comments:

Ian MacLeod said...

"There continues to be no protection for depressed patients in Oregon."

There is also no protection for chronic pain patients or their physicians. I have to wonder how many patients who take advantage of this law ARE chronic pain patients who have simply suffered more than they can stand. I've had chronic pain for 28 years. A couple of years ago I was sole caretaker for a wife dying of COPD, and when my doctor refused an incremental increase in my primary pain med and insisted on increasing the adjuvants, yet another doctor, my doctor's clinical supervisor, decided that I was abusing my medications and made decisions on inadequate information, , lied and blackmailed me into seeing a fake "Board Certified Pain Management specialist" who immediately destroyed the regimen that had allowed me to function well for eight years and crippled me.

My weight dropped from 210 to 143, and my wife and I finally decided on a double suicide. I couldn't take care of her, myself, the house, and was constantly getting jerked around by the doctors in the VA. I got lucky and found a new local doctor who helped me - with far less than I needed, but enough to care for my wife. Now it's two years later and I'm still trying to recover.

Finding chronic pain care is almost impossible now. And 28 years is a very, very long time. CPPs are treated like criminals almost anywhere. We're subjected to humiliation and various forms of abuse by most of the medical community to get rid of us, especially in ERs, and at best we're simply told that "We don't prescribe opiates." The "gold standard" for pain, especially chronic pain, opioids can actually sometimes heal CP, but we can't have it. The insane, out-of-control DEA and government propaganda have kept even doctors ignorant, and those who aren't are justifiably afraid. As I get older and the poorly controlled pain does more and more damage, suicide looks better and better. I'm sure many of the other 70 million CPPs in this country feel the same.

How does anyone justify this incredible cruelty?

Ian MacLeod said...

I should have added in summary: if you wish to reduce doctor-assisted suicide, 1)do NOT permit the insurance companies to refuse to pay for treatments or medications because suicide is cheaper; this is exactly the sort of blackmail Oregonians were assured wouldn't happen, but it DOES! And 2)have the governor and whoever is needed go toe to toe with the DEA and STOP them from attacking and railroading pain-treating doctors so that people with chronic pain can get the pain medications they need in a correct dose for chronic pain! I would wager that these two thing would significantly reduce the number of people choosing suicide. Don't just remove the option of suicide, though, if you're going to continue to ignore the Drug Warrior's removal of proper pain care! Poorly treated or untreated pain causes depression. Instead of treating pain with "mood elevators" that cause their own problems, start treating pain with the gold standard medications in the rest of the world: opiate analgesics in the correct dose for each patient.

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