Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Oregon Health Authority. There is no effective oversight of the Oregon assisted suicide law.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Last January, Fabian Stahle, a researcher from Sweden, published an email communication with an Oregon Health Authority (OHA) analyst concerning the OHA interpretation of the Death With Dignity Act (assisted suicide).

Based on the email conversation with the OHA analyst, Stahle uncovered the fact that: the definition of terminal illness, in Oregon, includes people who are not terminally ill, but would become terminally ill if they refuse effective medical treatment or care and the language in the Oregon assisted suicide law may have deceived people into thinking that the Oregon law is limited to people who are terminally ill.
Recently the OHA clarified the Public Health role concerning the Death with Dignity act (assisted suicide). The OHA update added the following two paragraphs:
The Act outlines specific patient requirements to participate. A patient must be: 1) 18 years of age or older, 2) a resident of Oregon, 3) capable of making and communicating health care decisions for him/herself, and 4) diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six (6) months. It is up to the attending and consulting physicians to determine whether these criteria have been met, and report that fact to OHA at the time a prescription is written. If any issues of non-compliance with the statutory requirements are identified, OHA reports that fact to the appropriate licensing board. 
The Death with Dignity Act is a permissive law that allows qualified patients to request a prescription and allows a physician to write the prescription. The Act as written requires that two physicians agree that the patient is suffering from a terminal disease, the patient is capable of making a decision to request life-ending medication, and the patient has made an informed decision. The Act does not specify whether or not all treatment options must be exhausted prior to a prescription being written, nor does it specify health insurance payment requirements for disease treatment. OHA does not interpret the statute, other than the portion related to the reporting requirements. (my highlights)
I highlighted information from the second paragraph that was likely added, in response to the article by Stahle. Clearly, there is no effective oversight of assisted suicide in Oregon and the law is interpreted to enable people who are not terminally ill to die by assisted suicide.

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