Record deaths in Oregon

The latest report from Oregon in relation to its assisted suicide regime reported record deaths last year. 

188 assisted suicide deaths in the 22nd year of the law’s operation means that, for the first time, one person is dying every two days under the state’s assisted suicide laws.  Another 100 people were provided with the medication to take their own lives.

As shocking as this record number of deaths is, perhaps what is more shocking is that it is not out of the question that Victoria could match these numbers in its first year.  With 52 deaths and a further 29 approved in its first six months of operation, Victoria looks like it will be a match, even for “record” deaths in Oregon.

While Victoria provides no information about the deaths in that state, the Oregon report offers some insight into which 188 of its residents comprised last year’s record numbers.

From that report, we can glean the following:

  • There was a physician who wrote 33 prescriptions for assisted suicide drugs; providing an indication that there are some medical practitioners who seem to have ‘death’ as a specialty;
  • The median length of time of the prescribing doctor and patient relationship was 14 weeks, indicating that most patients did not have long- or even medium-term relationships with the doctors who authorised their death and prescribed the drugs for it;
  • At least one patient only knew the prescribing doctor a week;
  • Of the 188 who died, only one patient was referred for psychological or psychiatric evaluation;
  • The top five reasons chosen for death again had no relation to pain, or even the fear of pain. The reasons were:
    • Less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable (90.4% of people);
    • Losing autonomy (86.7% of people);
    • Loss of dignity (72.3% of people);
    • Burden on family, friends/caregivers (59.0% of people); and
    • Losing control of bodily functions (39.4% of people).

What this information tells us is that pain or the fear of it are not key motivations for those who wish to die; it is much more about emotional responses to the end of life.  Despite this, only one patient was referred for psychological assessment.

It also tells us that most of these decisions to prescribe lethal drugs are being made by doctors who have treated the patient for less than four months, and not from those who have treated them for much longer. 

In summary, it tells us that assisted suicide is becoming an ‘industry’ in Oregon, and will be here too if we do not continue to oppose laws that risk our most vulnerable.