Friday, January 25, 2013

Oregon 2012 Assisted Suicide statistics - an analysis

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

The number of assisted suicide prescriptions and deaths have, once again, increased in the State of Oregon in 2012.

The number assisted suicide deaths were: 77 in 2012, 71 in 2011, 65 in 2010 and 59 in 2009. There has been a 30% increase in the number of assisted suicide deaths in Oregon since 2009.

The number of prescriptions for assisted suicide were 115 in 2012, 114 in 2011, 97 in 2010 and 95 in 2009. There has been a 21% increase in the number of prescriptions for assisted suicide in Oregon since 2009.

The Oregon assisted suicide law does not prevent elder abuse.

Margaret Dore, the President of Choice is an Illusion and a lawyer from Seattle noted that the Oregon assisted suicide statistics are consistent with elder abuse.

Dore stated in her article that:
Oregon's assisted suicide law, itself, allows the lethal dose to be administered without oversight. This creates the opportunity for an heir, or someone else who will benefit from the patient's death, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without the patient's consent. Even if he struggled, who would know? 
The new report provides the following demographics: "Of the 77 DWDA deaths during 2012, most (67.5%) were aged 65 years or older; the median age was 69 years.  As in previous years, most were white (97.4%), [and] well-educated (42.9% had at least a baccalaureate degree) . . . ." Most (51.4%) had private health insurance. 
Typically persons with these attributes are seniors with money, which would be the middle class and above, a group disproportionately at risk of financial abuse and exploitation. 
Oregon's law is written so as to allow such abuse to occur without anyone knowing. The new report is statistically consistent with elder abuse. 
The report indicated that the physician or another healthcare provider was present at the time of death in 11 of the 77 deaths.
The Oregon assisted suicide law does not prevent undue influence.

The Oregon report makes it appear that there is no undue influence to pressure people to assisted suicide. In Oregon, patients desiring treatment under the Oregon Health Plan have been offered assisted suicide instead.
Barbara Wagner

The most well known cases involve Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup. Each wanted treatment. The Plan denied their requests and steered them to suicide by offering to pay for their suicides. Neither Wagner nor Stroup saw this scenario as a celebration of their "choice." Wagner said: "I'm not ready to die." Stroup said: "This is my life they’re playing with."

It is important to note that only 2 of the 77 people who died by assisted suicide in Oregon in 2012 were referred for a psychiatric evaluation. This is significant because a study conducted by Oregon researcher, Linda Ganzini, found that 15 of 58 participants in her study were either depressed or experiencing feelings of extreme hopelessness. Of the 58 participants in her Oregon study, who had asked for assisted suicide, 18 died by assisted suicide with 3 of the assisted suicide deaths being persons who Ganzini found had questionable competency due to their depression/feelings of hopelessness.

The Oregon assisted suicide law does not prevent depressed people from dying by assisted suicide.

It is also noted that 14 of the people who received a prescription and died, have not submitted documentation and their ingestion status is unknown.

Assisted Suicide in Oregon is not limited to people who are terminally ill.

A recent letter from Jeanette Hall from King City Oregon stated:
In 2000, I was diagnosed with cancer and told that I had six months to a year to live. I knew that our law had passed, but I didn’t know exactly how to go about doing it. I did not want to suffer, and I did not want to do radiation. I wanted Stevens to help me, but he didn’t really answer me.

Instead, he encouraged me to not give up and ultimately I decided to fight the cancer. I had both chemotherapy and radiation. I am so happy to be alive!

It is now 12 years later. If Stevens had believed in assisted suicide, I would be dead. I thank him and all my doctors for helping me choose “life with dignity.”

The assisted suicide law in Oregon is not safe.
A recent letter written by Oregon attorney, Isaac Jackson, titled: The Oregon Assisted Suicide law is unsafe stated:
I write to inform your readers that Oregon’s assisted suicide law lacks transparency. Even law enforcement is denied access to information collected by the State. Moreover, this is official state policy. 
In 2010, I was retained by a client whose father had died under our assisted-suicide act. Unlike other deaths I have investigated, it was difficult to get basic information. 
After I wrote the state epidemiologist, I received a letter from the Attorney General’s Office that the agency charged with collecting assisted-suicide data, the Oregon Health Authority, “may only make public annual statistical information.” The letter also referred me to the Oregon Medical Board and law enforcement. 
The Board wrote me that there could be no investigation without an allegation of misconduct against a physician. At my request, a police officer was assigned to the case. Per his confidential report, the Oregon Health Authority would neither confirm nor deny that my client’s father had died under our act. Per the report, the officer did, however, talk to the doctor signing the death certificate who said that he did not know that the death had involved assisted-suicide. The death certificate listed the immediate cause of death as “cancer” and the manner of death as “natural.” 
Per the report, the officer also spoke with potential perpetrators who assured him that the death had been voluntary. He closed the case. 
This is a link to Oregon’s data release policy as of Jan. 1, that it “will not confirm on a case-by-case basis whether an individual has used, or a provider has been involved, with Death with Dignity.” 
Without transparency our law is not safe.
A recent letter from Kathryn Judson in Oregon confirms that the assisted suicide is not safe. She wrote:
When my husband was seriously ill several years ago, I collapsed in a half-exhausted heap in a chair once I got him into the doctor's office, relieved that we were going to get badly needed help (or so I thought). 
To my surprise and horror, during the exam I overheard the doctor giving my husband a sales pitch for assisted suicide. 'Think of what it will spare your wife, we need to think of her' he said, as a clincher. 
Now, if the doctor had wanted to say 'I don't see any way I can help you, knowing what I know, and having the skills I have' that would have been one thing. If he'd wanted to opine that certain treatments weren't worth it as far as he could see, that would be one thing. But he was tempting my husband to commit suicide. And that is something different. 
I was indignant that the doctor was not only trying to decide what was best for David, but also what was supposedly best for me (without even consulting me, no less). 
We got a different doctor, and David lived another five years or so. But after that nightmare in the first doctor's office, and encounters with a 'death with dignity' inclined nurse, I was afraid to leave my husband alone again with doctors and nurses, for fear they'd morph from care providers to enemies, with no one around to stop them. 
The Oregon assisted suicide law is controlled by a few insiders.

In 2009, Compassion & Choices, the assisted suicide lobby group that were formerly known as the Hemlock Society, facilitated 57 of 59 assistedsuicide deaths.

In 2008 the Oregonian newspaper urged Washington State citizens not to legalize assisted suicide. The Oregonian stated that the law was operated by: 
“a coterie of insiders run the [assisted suicide] program, with a handful of doctors and others deciding what the public may know.”  
The Oregon 2012 Assisted Suicide statistics and recent articles from Oregon confirm that there are significant problems with the assisted suicide law in Oregon, that no amount of control will keep hidden, forever, from its citizens. 


Leon Taylor said...

A large part of the opposition to assisted suicide comes from the Catholic Church which in Oregon controls very large parts of the hospital system. Thus the Catholic church has a vested financial interest in prolonging medical care as long as possible to maximize their income. It would be interesting to evaluate how much income Catholic hospitals derive from end of life care for terminal patients. I doubt the moderator will allow this post.

Alex Schadenberg said...

Dear Leon:

Nice try.

It is interesting how anti-religious people attempt to find something where there is nothing to be found.

Alex Schadenberg