Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Legalizing assisted suicide will not prevent violent deaths


The following article was written by Seattle attorney Margaret Dore in response to a comment by assisted suicide supporter Marcia Angell. This comment was originally published on the Massachusetts against assisted suicide blog under the title: Legalization will not prevent violent deaths.

By Margaret Dore
Margaret Dore

Assisted suicide proponents claim that legal assisted suicide will prevent violent deaths such as those by murder-suicide and suicide involving a handgun.[1] In Oregon where assisted-suicide has been legal since 1997, murder-suicide has not been eliminated.[2] Indeed, murder-suicides follow "the national pattern."[3] As discussed below, suicides involving a handgun have also not been eliminated. Oregon's suicide rate has instead increased with legalization of assisted suicide.

Oregon’s overall suicide rate, which excludes suicides under Oregon’s assisted suicide act, is 35% above the national average.[4] This rate has been "increasing significantly since 2000."[5] Just three years prior, in 1997, Oregon legalized physician-assisted suicide.[6] Other suicides thus increased, not decreased, with legalization of assisted suicide. Moreover, many of these deaths are violent. For 2007, which is the most recent year reported, "[f]irearms were the dominant mechanism of suicide among men."[7] The claim that legalization will prevent violent deaths is without factual support.

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[1]  See e.g. Lindsey Anderson, Associated Press, "Mass. Voters Consider Physician-Assisted Suicide," October 20, 2012, at: http://www.wbur.org/2012/10/20/physician-assisted-suicide ("Dr. Marcia Angell ... believes [her father] would've lived longer and not turned to a pistol had assisted suicide been available").
[2]  See Don Colburn, "Recent murder-suicides follow the national pattern," The Oregonian, November 17, 2009 ("In the span of one week this month in the Portland area, three murder-suicides resulted in the deaths of six adults and two children") (Available at: http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2009/11/recent_murder-suicides_follow.html); Baldr Odinson, "Fourth Murder-Suicide for the Eugene Area," New Trajectory:  A blog for Ceasefire Oregon, March 2, 2011, ("Harry Hanus, age 74, shot and killed his wife, Barbara, before taking his own life")
(Available at: http://newtrajectory.blogspot.com/2011/03/fourth-murder-suicide-for-eugene-area.html); FOX 12 Webstaff, "Elderly couple's murder-suicide was planned well in advance, police say," Updated November 4, 2011, ("The bodies of 92-year-old Frances Lopes and 87-year-old Edward J. Lopes were found after a lengthy standoff at the Troutdale home")(http://www.kptv.com/story/15634956/standoff-ends-after-police-find-two-dead-in-troutdale-home?clienttype=printable);
and Colleen Stewart, "Hillsboro [Oregon] police investigating couple's homicide and suicide," The Oregonian, July 23, 2010 ("Wayne Eugene Coghill, 67, shot and killed his wife, Nyla Jean Coghill, 65, before taking his own life in their apartment"), at: http://www.oregonlive.com/hillsboro/index.ssf/2010/07/hillsboro_police_investigating_homicide_and_suicide.html See also Oregon State website as of October 24, 2012, stating that Oregon's assisted suicide law was enacted on October 27, 1997, at: http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Pages/index.aspx
[3] Don Colburn, "Recent murder-suicides follow the national pattern," at note 2.
[4]  See "Suicides in Oregon, Trends and Risk Factors," Oregon Department of Human Services, Public Health Division, September 2010 ("In 2007, the age-adjusted suicide rate . . . was 35% higher than the national average." "Deaths relating to the death with Dignity Act (physician-assisted suicides) are not classified by Oregon law and therefore excluded from this report")(Available at: http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/suicides-in-oregon-sept-20121.pdf).
[5]  Oregon Health Authority, News Release, Rising suicide rate in Oregon reaches higher than national average, September 9, 2010, available at: http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/rising-suicide-rate-in-oregon.pdf 
[6]  See Oregon State government website as of October 24, 2012, stating that Oregon's assisted suicide law was enacted on October 27, 1997.  Available at: http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Pages/index.aspx
[7]  Excerpt, "Suicides in Oregon, Trends and Risk Factors."  (Available at: http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/suicides-in-oregon-sept-20121.pdf

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