Oregon’s suicide statistics rise again

Oregon’s Death with Dignity Law was passed in 1997. Since then 1,545 prescriptions have been issued and 991 deaths have been reported. Latest statistics show another large rise in both prescription and deaths.

During 2015, 218 people received prescriptions for lethal medications. 125 of them used the medication and died.  50 died before they used it.  5 died and Oregon does not know whether or not they used it.  For 38 people there is no information about whether they used it or whether they are alive or dead. The statistics depend on self-reporting by doctors and there is no penalty for not reporting, no duty of the prescribing physician to superintend or be present, no way of telling whether the death was actually voluntary.

Patients are supposed to have less than 6 months to live, though of course the prognosis is very often inaccurate.

The three main reasons for issuing the prescriptions were being “less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable” (96%); “losing autonomy” (92%); and “loss of dignity” (75%). “Inadequate pain control or concern about it” was mentioned by 28.7% but the statistics do not indicate how many had actually experienced inadequately treated pain, although this is a major selling point of much assisted suicide advocacy.

There is information about the actual dying process for only about one fifth of patients, who took from 5 minutes to 34 hours (yes, hours) to die.  Of these, 4 had unpleasant complications. In other years the longest time of dying was more than 4 days. Not always quite the easy death advertised by proponents, either for the patient or family and friends. 

Since 1997, 6 patients have regained consciousness after taking a lethal dose, and have not been recorded in the statistics as assisted suicides. There seems no record of what happened next.

We congratulate U.K. legislatures on not following Oregon into these very murky waters.