Does Oregon’s 2016 assisted suicide report under-report assisted suicide deaths?

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The 2016 Oregon annual assisted suicide report, produced by the Health Division, Center for Health Statistics, is similar to prior years. The report implies the deaths were voluntary (self-administered), but the report does not address that subject.

According to the 2016 Oregon assisted suicide report

  • There were 204 lethal prescriptions obtained in 2016.
  • There were 133 reported assisted suicide deaths, as of January 23, 2017, “including 19 prescription recipients from prior years.”

Oregon’s assisted suicide law lacks effective oversight.

The Oregon “Death with Dignity Act” [DWDA] enables two doctors to approve death by assisted suicide. There is no further oversight once the prescribing physician writes the lethal prescription.

According to the latest report, in 2016, the prescribing physician was present at the assisted death in only 10% [13 of 133] of reported deaths, creating the opportunity for an heir, or someone else who will benefit from the patient’s death, to administer the lethal dose. Even if he (or more likely she) struggled, who would know?

After the person dies by assisted suicide, the physician who prescribed the lethal dose is required to submit a report. The information in the annual reports are based on the data self-reported by the doctors who prescribe the lethal dose. The physician is rarely at the death, and the physician is required to self-report.

This means the system enables abuses of the law to be covered-up. Doctors will not self-report abuse of the law. Significantly, we learn, “During 2016, no referrals were made to the Oregon Medical Board for failure to comply with DWDA requirement.”

There may be more assisted suicide deaths.

According to the 2016 Oregon report, “the ingestion status is unknown for 54 patients prescribed DWDA medications. Ten of these patients died, but follow up information is not available.”

It is possible that some or all of the 10 unknown deaths were deaths by assisted suicide because they all had been prescribed lethal drugs. These deaths could represent unreported assisted suicide deaths.

Legalizing assisted suicide gives physicians the power over life and death. It is the physician who decides; it is the physician who prescribes the lethal dose; and it is the physician who is required to self-report the act to the Oregon Health Authority.

What should further concern you is the fact that the assisted suicide lobby is now promoting assisted suicide laws that further lack safeguards.

We believe in Caring for people, not killing.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.