More MS news articles for March 2000

Not Dead Yet Blasts Oregon Report on Legal Suicides

The State of Oregon has issued a report about the second-year implementation of Oregon's "Death with Dignity" law, analyzing the demographics and motives of the 27 people who ended their lives with the aid of doctors.

Members of Not Dead Yet, the national disability-rights group opposed to assisted suicide, have leveled sharp criticism against the report.

According to the report from the Oregon Health Division, physicians reported writing 33 prescriptions for lethal medication at the request of patients during 1999. These led to 26 deaths, plus one death of a patient who had requested assisted suicide during 1998. Of the remaining seven 1999 prescription recipients, five died of their underlying illnesses, and two were still alive at the end of the year.

During 1998, the first year of the law's implementation, 23 Oregonians received prescriptions for lethal medications; 15 of them died after ingesting these medications.

The 1999 report states: "Multiple concerns motivated patient [physician-assisted suicide] requests in 1999. The 27 physicians interviewed most frequently cited patient concerns about loss of autonomy (81 percent) and decreasing ability to participate in activities that make life enjoyable (81 percent)."

Figures were based on mandatory reports filed by physicians, plus interviews with those physicians and family members of patients who died. This methodology raised a red flag with Not Dead Yet. In a February 24 press release, Not Dead Yet quotes the report's authors: "Under reporting and non-compliance is ... difficult to assess because of possible repercussions for noncompliant physicians reporting to the division." Not Dead Yet pointed to several other findings in the report that cause concern over the legalization of physician-assisted suicide:

"This latest report serves to promote the illusion that there is real accountability in the Oregon health system's oversight of assisted suicide,"  said Diane Coleman, executive director of Not Dead Yet. "In fact, there is nothing available that even approaches the level of meaningful research. The greatest public service the Oregon Health Division could provide is to admit there is no accountability and no way to know what is really happening with assisted suicide in Oregon."

Click below (related links) to read a summary of the 1999 Oregon Health Division Report.

(This story was posted on 28 Feb 2000)