Friday, February 12, 2016

Oregon 2015 assisted suicide report - another 26% increase in assisted suicide deaths.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.



The 2015 Oregon assisted suicide report indicates that there was another 26% in assisted suicide deaths and a 40% increase in lethal prescriptions. The 2014 Oregon assisted suicide report indicated a 44% increase in assisted suicide deaths and a 48% increase in lethal prescriptions representing an 81% increase in assisted suicide deaths in two years.

The 2015 annual report is similar to prior years. The report implies that the deaths were voluntary (self-administered), but the information in the report does not address that subject.

Oregon's assisted suicide law allows the lethal dose to be administered without effective oversight. 
The Oregon law enables two doctors to approve death by assisted suicide and once the lethal prescription is written there is no further oversight. The prescribing physician was present at the assisted suicide death in only 14 of 132 deaths in 2015 creating 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?"

After the person dies by assisted suicide, in Oregon, the doctor who prescribed the lethal dose is required to submit a report. The information in the annual reports are solely based on the data provided by the doctors who prescribe the lethal dose and then self-report after the death of the person. This system enables abuses of the law to be covered-up. Doctors do not self-report abuse of the law. 

For instance, in 2015, the ingestion status of 43 people who received a lethal dose was unknown, 5 of the 43 have died, with no report being submitted. It is unknown whether these people died by assisted suicide.

In 2015, Oregon assisted suicide deaths increased in numbers and conditions.
  • 132 people died by assisted suicide in 2015, which was up from 105 assisted suicide deaths in 2014 and 73 assisted suicide deaths in 2013.
  • 218 lethal prescriptions were obtained in 2015, which was up from 155 lethal prescriptions in 2014 and 121 lethal prescriptions in 2013.
Deaths from "other illnesses" continue to increase as the reasons for assisted suicide expand. In 2015, 14 people (more than 10%) died from other illnesses which included diabetes.

Similar to previous years, only 5 people received a psychiatric evaluation even though a few years ago an Oregon study found that 26% of the people who requested assisted suicide were depressed. Psychiatrist, Dr Steven King recently stated in the Psychiatric Times that the Oregon law is not protecting depressed patients.

The number of people who had private health insurance and died by assisted suicide dropped from 60.2% in previous years to 36.7% in 2015. An increasing number of people who request assisted suicide are dependent on Medicaid or Medicare (62.5% in 2015 up from an average of 38.3% in the past). This is concerning since the Oregon Health Authority pays for assisted suicide but not suicide prevention for adults.

Even though the number of assisted suicides continue to increase, in 2015 Oregon debated a bill to expand the definition of terminal, from 6 months to 12 months to death. One reason for the proposed expansion was that doctors already ignore the 6 month terminal definition. In 2015, one person died 517 days (more than 1.5 years) after being prescribed the lethal dose.

The assisted suicide lobby is also trying to expand the assisted suicide law by forcing doctors who oppose assisted suicide to refer their patients to doctors who will assist suicides.

The disability rights group, Not Dead Yet, argues that assisted suicide is discriminatory and a violation of the Americans with disabilities act. I agree.

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