Oregon Assisted Suicides Increase
Assisted suicides increased by a further 6.3% from 2017 to 2018 and now account for 0.47% of all deaths of adults in Oregon.
The 2018 Data Summary for assisted suicide in Oregon shows that:
Increase in numbers
The number of deaths from ingesting lethal substances prescribed under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act reached 168 in 2018 (up 6.3% from 2017, and nearly three and a half times the 49 deaths in 2007) continuing a steady rise at an average growth of 14.9% per annum, since 1998, the first year of the Act’s operation when 16 people died under its provisions.
Burden on family
In 2018 more than half (54.16%) of those who died after taking prescribed lethal medication cited concerns about being a “Burden on family, friends/caregivers” as a reason for the request.
Research by Linda Ganzini has established that one in six people who died under Oregon’s law had clinical depression.
Depression is supposed to be screened for under the Act. However, in 2018 only 3 out of 168 people (1.78%) who died under the Oregon law were referred by the prescribing doctor for a psychiatric evaluation before writing a script for a lethal substance.
This means it is likely that about 25 people with clinical depression were prescribed and took a lethal poison without being referred for a psychiatric evaluation.
Of those who died from ingesting a lethal dose of medication in 2018, more than one in twenty (5.35%) mentioned the “financial implications of treatment” as a consideration. While this percentage is relatively small it is appalling that since 1998 fifty seven (57) Oregonians have died from a lethal prescription after expressing concerns about the financial implications of treatment.
Not a rapid or peaceful death
In 2018 one in nine (11.11%) of those for whom information about the circumstances of their deaths is available either had difficulty ingesting or regurgitated the lethal dose or had other complications. Two people had seizures in 2017
The interval from ingestion of lethal drugs to unconsciousness has been as long as four hours (in 2017). Curiously data on the interval from ingestion of lethal drugs to unconsciousness has not been included in the 2018 Data Summary but was supplied in response to an email request. In 2018 for one person the interval from ingestion of lethal drugs to unconsciousness was as long as 60 minutes.
The time from ingestion to death has been as long as 104 hours (4 days and 8 hours). One person in 2018 took 14 hours to die.
In 2018 one person regained consciousness after ingesting the prescribed substance and later died of the underlying illness.
A total of 8 people have regained consciousness after taking the supposedly lethal dose.
Two of the cases of regaining consciousness occurred after using DDMP2 – the latest experimental lethal cocktail being used by pro-assisted suicide doctors.
This experimental lethal cocktail does not always result in a swift and peaceful death.
In 2018 one person ingested lethal medication 807 days (2 years 2 ½ months) after the initial request for the lethal prescription was made. The longest duration between initial request and ingestion recorded is 1009 days (that is 2 years and 9 months). Evidently in these cases the prognosis was wildly inaccurate.
The 2018 annual report reveals that there have been a total of 11 people for whom the “underlying illness” has been listed as “Endocrine/metabolic disease [e.g., diabetes]”. It also cites arthritis, arteritis, stenosis and sclerosis (none of which are usually terminal illnesses) as the underlying illness in at least one case each.
This suggests that even the central requirement that an illness be terminal is not strictly applied.
Short term relationship with physicians keen on assisted suicide
The data indicates that in some cases doctors have had a relationship with the patient of less than one week’s duration and that in 2018 in half the cases the doctor-patient relationship was of 10 weeks duration or less.
In 2018 a total of 103 physicians wrote 249 prescriptions (1‐35 prescriptions per physician) for lethal doses.
Taken together this data suggests that there are some doctors in Oregon very willing to write prescriptions for lethal substances for patients they barely know. One doctor in 2018 was writing a prescription to end the life of a patient on average every ten or eleven days (35 times in a year).
In 2018 a physician or other healthcare provider was known to be present at the time the lethal medication was ingested on only half the cases. And in one in five of those cases the provider left before death occurred. This means that in 50% of cases there was no physician or other healthcare provider known to be present at the time of ingestion and in 61.3% of cases there was no physician or other healthcare provider known to be present at the time of death.
In half the cases there is therefore no independent evidence that the person took the lethal medication voluntarily. It may well have been administered to them by a family member or other person under duress, surreptitiously or violently. We can never know.
The latest data on Oregon’s 21 year experiment with an assisted suicide law shows that, far from providing a model that other jurisdictions should follow, it serves as a warning that such a law cannot guarantee that all deaths from assisted suicide are either voluntary or peaceful, or limited to those who actually meet the eligibility criteria.
Read more on assisted suicide in Oregon here.