Oregon May Hit Record High for Assisted Suicides as Washington Starts Them

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 12, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Oregon May Hit Record High for Assisted Suicides as Washington Starts Them

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
January 12
, 2009

Olympia, WA (LifeNews.com) — Oregon was the first state in the nation to legalize assisted suicide and the euthanasia backers who put the law in place say it is about to hit a record high as another state begins allowing the killing of patients.

Robb Miller, executive director of the pro-euthanasia Compassion & Choices says he believes there will be a total of 55 people to have killed themselves under the Oregon law once the state health department releases official figures.

He can attest to the number because volunteers from his group serve as witnesses in about 85 percent of the cases that occur in the state, he told the Seattle Post Intelligencer newspaper.

If that number holds true, it will set another record for the number of patients to be killed under the law after a previous record in 2007. It will also mean that 396 people have killed themselves since the law took effect.

The number of Oregon residents using the state’s assisted suicide law to kill themselves reached 49 in 2007, according to a March report from the Oregon Department of Human Services. That was an increase over the 2006 figures.

The report showed 85 people received the drugs (an increase of 20 from the year prior).

In addition, more people received lethal drugs from doctors to kill themselves than any previous year under the state’s first-in-the-nation law legalizing assisted suicide.

Now, Washington official plan to meet next month to put the state’s new assisted suicide law into place, and the statute will take effect on March 5.

The state Department of Health will hold a public hearing on February 10 to draft the rules to implement the law.

Miller said about 40 of the 55 deaths in Oregon involved doctors at hospitals that prohibit assisted suicide. That means the physicians had to meet with the patients away from the hospital and write the prescription for lethal drugs on their own time.

That could come into play in Washington as patient advocates work to create assisted suicide free zones at hospitals and medical centers.

In 1998, 16 Oregonians used the assisted suicide law to kill themselves, followed by 27 in 1999, 27 in 2000, 21 in 2001, 38 in 2002, 42 in 2003, and 37 in 2004.

Following the last Oregon report in 2007, one leading euthanasia opponent, Rita Marker, of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, said she’s concerned doctors don’t do more to help patients address the mental health issues that likely prompt them to consider suicide.

"During 2007, not one patient who died under Oregon’s assisted suicide law was referred for psychiatric or psychological evaluation before receiving the prescription for lethal drugs," she said.

Despite the apparent exactness of the figures, Marker told LifeNews.com she has no idea whether the information in the report is accurate or can be trusted. Marker said she relies on comments from state officials in previous years.

“We don’t really know if they are accurate or complete," she said of the new assisted suicide records. "And we are not the only ones that are saying we don’t know if they are accurate or complete."

ACTION: Attend the public hearing on the drafting of the assisted suicide laws in Washington. The hearing will be held at 9 a.m. on February 10 at the state Department of Health. It will be in the Point Plaza East Room 152/153 on 310 Israel Road S.E., in Tumwater. The draft rules are available at https://goto.seattlepi.com/r1906.

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