SALEM, February 7, 2002 ( – The Oregon Health Division released its “Death with Dignity Act Annual Report 2001” Wednesday noting that in the fourth year of the legal physician-assisted suicide program 21 people killed themselves – down from 27 in both 1999 and 2000.

In 2001, 44 prescriptions for lethal doses of medication were written by 33 physicians, compared with 39 prescriptions in 2000, 33 in 1999, and 24 in 1998.

The report indicates that the 21 patients who committed assisted suicide during 2001 were demographically similar to patients who participated in previous years, except that a slightly higher percentage were women. Cancer was the predominant underlying illness. The three most commonly mentioned end-of-life concerns during 2001 were: loss of autonomy, a decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable, and losing control of bodily functions.

The deaths were not all quick and easy. The report notes one patient regurgitated some of the lethal concoction and in that sorrowful state went unconscious and died. One patient vomited after ingesting the prescribed medication and died 25 hours later; another patient lived for 37 hours after ingestion however neither patient regained consciousness.

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