Friday, June 6, 2014

Assisted suicide deaths increase by at least 43% in Washington State (2013)

By Alex Schdenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The number of assisted suicide deaths in Washington State, increased by at least 43% in 2013. Assisted suicide was legalized in March 2009, after a ballot measure.

In Washington State there were 119 known assisted suicide deaths in 2013, which was up from 83 in 2012, 70 in 2011, and 51 in 2010. It is important to note that it is unknown whether 14 of the people who received a lethal prescription died by assisted suicide. It is likely that of the 14 unknown causes of death, many were assisted suicide deaths.

The Washington State assisted suicide annual report stated that there were 173 lethal prescriptions up by 43% from 121 in 2012 with 26 deaths known to have occurred without taking the lethal dose.

Margaret Dore
Information in the assisted suicide annual reports come from the voluntarily reports by the doctors who prescribed suicide. Doctors who prescribe suicide will not self-report when they abuse the law.

Washington State Elder Law Attorney, Margaret Dore, recently published an article outlining her experience with the assisted suicide practice in Washington State. Dore stated:

I have had two clients whose parents signed up for the lethal dose. In the first case, one side of the family wanted the father to take the lethal dose, while the other did not. He spent the last months of his life caught in the middle and traumatized over whether or not he should kill himself. My client, his adult daughter, was also traumatized. The father did not take the lethal dose and died a natural death. 
In the other case, it's not clear that administration of the lethal dose was voluntary. A man who was present told my client that the father refused to take the lethal dose when it was delivered (“You’re not killing me. I’m going to bed”), but then took it the next night when he was high on alcohol. The man who told this to my client later recanted. My client did not want to pursue the matter further.
Similar to Washington State, last week it was announced that Assisted deaths in Belgium increased by 26.8% in 2013.

Studies in Belgium, where assisted death was legalized in 2002, examined every death in the Flanders region over a four month period. These death studies uncovered significant abuse of the euthanasia law, information that was not reported in the official reports.

The Belgian studies found that 32% of the assisted deaths were done without request, 47% of the assisted deaths were not reported and a study examining the role of nurses found that nurses were assisting the deaths of their patients in Belgium even though the euthanasia law did not permit them to do so.

The Washington State annual assisted suicide report only provides basic statistics. Washington State needs to uncover their full experience with assisted death by studying all deaths over several months to uncover the abuses of the assisted suicide law.

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