By Gudrun Schultz

OREGON, United States, May 18, 2006 ( – Oregon’s confusion over the state’s alarming rate of suicide among the elderly would be laughable, if it were not so tragic, said Wesley J. Smith, an expert in the field of bioethics and euthanasia and the author of a critical examination of the assisted suicide/euthanasia movement, Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder.

Oregon legalized physician-assisted suicide in November of 1997. Over the ensuing decade, rates of non-physician assisted suicide in the state have outstripped the national elder suicide rate, with about 100 Oregonians aged 65 or older taking their own lives annually.

In a commentary on Oregon’s investigation into the disproportionately high rate of suicide among the state’s elderly, Smith points out that a state that has legalized physician-assisted suicide should not be surprised at an overall increase in suicide rates.

“Oregon is upset that it has a high rate of elder suicide,” Smith wrote on his blogsite Tuesday. “Yet, amid the wringing hands, no one seems to get the point that suicide is fine and dandy in some cases. Despairing people, particularly with health issues, get that point and may think, if it’s okay for the cancer patient, why not also for me?”

Oregon officials released a plan Monday aimed at helping to reduce the rate of elder suicides, reported the Oregonian. Educating doctors and nurses to recognize symptoms of depression in their elderly patients is a key element of the plan, according to Dr. Mel Kohn, an Oregon state epidemiologist.

Over a third of suicide victims had seen a doctor within the month previous to their deaths, the state report showed. About 75% of both men and women were suffering with a problem with their health.

“The first step in reducing suicide is prevention efforts in all cases,” said Smith. “But don’t expect Oregon to get that simple point.”

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute of Seattle, Washington, an attorney and consultant for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. He is an award-winning author of multiple books on bioethics and related issues.

Wesley J. Smith blogsite: