Oregon assisted suicide law, lax safeguards

Editor’s note. The following letter to the editor was published by the Oregonian on October 31.

By Dr. Kenneth Stevens

The Oct. 17 article “Why more Oregonians took their lives through Death with Dignity in 2020 than any other year” provided valuable information. The Oregon Health Authority data shows an exponential increase in the number of Death with Dignity Act prescriptions and deaths over the years. Future numbers can be predicted by using a semi-log plot that shows a linear pattern of the numbers of prescriptions and deaths from drug overdoses. 

People who favor such deaths fear disability more than they fear death. They are the “white, well-off, worried, well.” As a physician, I am concerned that the proponent organization for assisted suicide is promoting it among underserved communities and minority groups. There are many problems with assisted suicide. There is lack of transparency. Although the prescribing physician is to refer a patient for psychological evaluation if there may be depression or other conditions impairing patient judgment, only 4% of those dying from the drugs received such evaluation (only 0.5% in 2020). Recent changes in Oregon’s law have removed many safeguards from Oregon’s Death with Dignity law. 

There are many problems with assisted suicide. The Oregonian/ OregonLive should investigate further into what is happening in Oregon.