Friday, August 7, 2015

Washington State (2014) assisted suicide report: no information on 27 deaths.

Alex Schadenberg
By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In 2014, 126 people reportedly died by assisted suicide in Washington State. This is up by 6% from 119 assisted suicide deaths in 2013, a 43% increase from 83 assisted suicide deaths in 2012.

According to the annual report, there were 176 lethal prescriptions written resulting in 126 assisted suicide deaths, 17 deaths from other causes, 27 deaths from an unknown cause and 6 people remain alive.

The annual report states that they do not know if the 27 deaths from "unknown causes" resulted from assisted suicide and they do not know the status of the lethal prescriptions.

In the Netherlands up to 23% of the assisted deaths are not reported. In Belgium the percentage of unreported assisted deaths is even higher.


Thus, it would not be surprising if 20% of the assisted suicide deaths in Washington State were not reported.

A broader number of illnesses are leading to assisted suicide. The Washington State report indicated that assisted deaths from other illnesses tripled. The report did not list what other illnesses represented but in Oregon other illnesses includes diabetes.
The "safeguard" restricting lethal drugs to people who are terminally ill (within six months of death) may not be closely followed. The annual report states that: 1 person in 2009, 1 person in 2010, 1 person in 2011 and 4 people in 2013 who received lethal drugs may be alive today.

Dangerously, when the status of the participant is unknown, then the status of the lethal drugs is also unknown.

These people may not have died by assisted suicide, but how safe is it for people to have lethal prescriptions in their homes?

The Seattle weekly reported that there were more women than men who died by assisted suicide. According to the annual report 96 (57%) of the assisted suicide deaths were women.


When Jeannette Hall asked for assisted suicide 15 year ago in Oregon but received supportive care, she chose to receive treatment for cancer rather than lethal drugs. Jeannette Hall is happy to be alive today.

When people receive good end-of-life care (physical, psychological and emotional care), they do not seek death by lethal drugs.

Assisted suicide is a form of abandonment. It is a tragic end for people seeking help.

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