Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Oregon debating bill to expand assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

An Oregon, assisted suicide Bill HB 3337 is being debated in the State House to expand the assisted suicide law.

Currently people in Oregon are eligible to die by assisted suicide if they are defined as terminally ill. The assisted suicide act states:
“Terminal disease” means an incurable and irreversible disease that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgment, [produce] result in death within [six months].
Bill HB 3337 will expand the definition to 12 months.

Jeannette Hall lives in Oregon and was diagnosed as terminally ill with a 6 - 12 month prognosis in 2000. She asked for assisted suicide but is alive today because her physician didn't abandon her by prescribing a lethal dose, but rather provided medical treatment. Hall is happy to be alive today.

The 2014 Oregon assisted suicide report indicates a 44% increase in assisted suicide deaths and a 48% increase in the number of lethal prescriptions. In 2014, at least one person who died by assisted suicide obtained the lethal dose in 2012, (439 days before death) even though the law requires the person to be within 6 months of death.

In 2014, Assisted suicide's in Oregon increased in numbers, conditions and demographics.

  • 105 assisted suicide deaths in 2014 up from 73 in 2013. (44% increase).
  • 155 prescriptions for suicide in 2014 up from 105 in 2013. (48% increase).
In previous years almost 80% of the assisted deaths, were cancer related. In 2014, 68% had cancer with "other illnesses" increasing to 8.6% (9 deaths). Other illnesses included diabetes.

Oregon did not previously attempt to expand the assisted suicide law because the assisted suicide lobby was trying to first expand the number of states that permit assisted suicide.

In Oregon, the doctor who prescribes suicide self-reports the assisted suicide death after the person has died. Since doctors do not self-report abuse of the law and since the doctor is rarely at the death, therefore we have no idea if the assisted suicide death was voluntary and we have no idea if the person who died was mentally competent, depressed or coerced.

The lack of oversight reveals concerns that elders, who are being abused, people with depression or incompetent may be dying by assisted suicide.

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