Oregon Under Fire for Changing "Assisted Suicide" Wording in Reports

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 17, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Oregon Under Fire for Changing "Assisted Suicide" Wording in Reports Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
October 17
, 2006

Salem, OR (LifeNews.com) — Oregon is the only state in the nation to have legalized assisted suicide, but don’t call the grisly practice by that name anymore. The state’s health department has decided to change the wording of the phrase when referring to the state law — a move that has pro-life advocates up in arms.

The Oregon Department of Human Services has determined that it will begin referring to "physician assisted suicide" as "physician assisted death" on official reports.

The change comes as backers of the assisted suicide law claim the original term is offensive to those who kill themselves under the statute. In fact, Compassion & Choices, a national group that backs euthanasia and assisted suicide, pressured state officials to make the change.

Gayle Atteberry, the executive director of Oregon Right to Life called the wording difference "outrageous" in comments to the Statesman Journal newspaper.

"They have changed it to a euphemism to make it more palatable," she said. "Do they think it is going to make it easier for people to kill themselves?"

The change may make it easier for those people who kill themselves with a doctor’s help to feel good about their actions.

Before she took her own life in August, the newspaper reports that Charlene Andrews of Salem told the National Press Club, "Please do not call it suicide. That is an insult to my fight against cancer. With cancer, we know when there are no treatment options."

But Mike Gander of Salem, who took care of his son and mother in law while they were dying, told the Statesman Journal the phrase is just a euphemism put forward by those who don’t want to confront the reality of what they’re doing.

"It’s like using the terminology ‘choice’ when it comes to abortion," he said. "No one wants to use the word ‘abortion’; they want to use the word ‘choice.’ But the terminology — whether accurate or inaccurate — still results in the same thing. ‘Physician-assisted death’ is the same as suicide."

In May, the Senate held a hearing on problems associated with the state’s assisted suicide law.

Diane Coleman, president of Not Dead Yet, a leading disability rights group said that the longer the Oregon law stays around the more disabled patients are feeling obligated to end their lives when they become a so-called "burden" to their families.

"What looks to some like a choice to die begins to look more like a duty to die to many disability activists," she said.

Meanwhile, Wesley Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, who is a leading monitor of end of life issues, said the state is poorly monitoring assisted suicide and problems associated with it because it relies on doctors to self-report about the deaths.
So far, some 246 people have used the Oregon assisted suicide law to end their lives since it went into effect in 1998.

In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled that patients had a right to refuse lifesaving medical treatment and, in 1997, the court ruled unanimously that there is no constitutional right to assisted suicide but that states may ban or allow the practice.

Related web sites:
Oregon Right to Life – https://www.ortl.org