More MS news articles for Feb 2002

Assisted suicides decline in Oregon

Feb 08, 2002
PORTLAND, Oregon, Reuters

Physicians helped 21 people end their lives last year under Oregon's groundbreaking and controversial physician-assisted suicide law, down from 27 in 2000, an Oregon state agency reported on Wednesday.

"The patients were older, highly educated and most had cancer," Katrina Hedberg, deputy epidemiologist for Oregon, said.

US Attorney General John Ashcroft has attempted to block Oregon's law, angering many Oregonians, who voted to approve the law in 1994 and reaffirmed it in 1997. The state filed suit against the Justice Department and a federal judge expects to issue a ruling on the case in March.

The Oregon Department of Human Services, required by law to issue an annual report, said the median age of the patients who chose suicide was 68 years and the group included 12 females and 9 males. Eighteen had advanced cancer.

"The results have really been consistent from the very beginning," Hedberg said. "It is about one to three people every month."

Oregon physicians wrote 44 prescriptions for lethal doses of medications in 2001, up from 39 in 2000, 33 in 1999 and 24 in 1998. Of the 2001 prescription recipients, 14 died from their illnesses, 19 died from drug overdose, and 11 were still alive at the end of the year. The two additional patients who died from overdose in 2001 had received lethal dose prescriptions in 2000.

Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited