Eighth Annual Oregon Assisted Suicide Report Shorter with More Ambiguous Language

By Hilary White

  SALEM, Oregon, March 9, 2007 ( – It is the ninth year of legal physician assisted suicide (PAS) in Oregon and the state has released its annual report on patients whose lives were ended by legal assisted suicide. This year, euthanasia opponents are pointing to the more ambiguous language in this year’s report saying that the Department of Human Services yielded to pressure by euthanasia activists to cloud the debate.

  Under the Death with Dignity Act (DWDA), patients can obtain a prescription for lethal doses of self-administered medications. 65 such prescriptions were given in the last year, written by 40 different doctors. 35 patients took the drugs meant to end their lives and 11 patients used prescriptions made out in previous years, giving the total number of suicides under the DWDA as 46 during 2006, eight more than in 2005.

  Unlike reports from previous years, the 2006 annual report uses the phrase, “those patients who participated in the Act” to avoid using the more direct term “physician assisted suicide”.

  The report’s authors write, “Since the law was passed in 1997, 292 patients have died under the terms of the law.”

  Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation (PCCEF) responded to the report saying they were concerned by the dearth of information compared to reports from previous years. PCCEF is an association of doctors whose goal is to preserve and restore the traditional doctor/patient relationship of trust and respect for the sanctity of life.

  PCCEF called the report “amazingly brief and incomplete” and said the type of narrative information on individual cases featured in previous reports was entirely missing. The group noted that although depression is the most common cause of suicidal ideation, only two patients were referred for psychiatric examination. 

  The most frequently cited reasons for wanting PAS by the people who killed themselves under the law were loss of autonomy (96%), decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (96%), and loss of dignity (76%). There was a 26% increase in fears of inadequate pain control than was reported in previous years.

  Read the 2006 report:

  Visit the website of Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation:

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