Washington Report: At Least 36 People Died in Assisted Suicide Law’s First Year

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 4, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Washington Report: At Least 36 People Died in Assisted Suicide Law’s First Year

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 4
, 2010

Olympia, WA (LifeNews.com) — A new report from the Washington health department reveals at least 36 people died after they killed themselves under the first year of the state’s new law legalizing assisted suicides. The law was only enacted for nine months during 2009 after voters approved it on the 2008 ballot.

The figures from the state indicate Washington doctors gave prescriptions for lethal doses of drugs to 63 patients between March 5, when the law went into effect, and the end of 2009.

The numbers reveal 47 people died — with 36 of them taking the lethal cocktail of drugs while seven people died of other causes and four people died but it could not be determined if they died from an assisted suicide or for other reasons.

In the cases of those whose cause of death could not be determined, the death report has yet to be filed indicating it.

The people who killed themselves via the assisted suicide law closely resembled the patients who died in Oregon under the law there that is the first in the nation. Most victims of the law were white, well-educated, had health insurance, and were battling cancer at the time of their death. All of them worried about losing personal autonomy.

Dan Kennedy, the head of Human Life of Washington, the statewide pro-life group, commented on the new report.

"You will note, the physicians report that of those who received the medication and died (36) it was primarily because of ‘concern’ – in other words – as we suggested, they took the medication because of fear of what might happen," he said.

"The assisted suicide movement plays on fears and death is the solution they offer. Fear is not medical care, and physicians who allow fear to dictate the death of a patient, betray both the patient and the ethical standards of their profession," Kennedy added.

The Washington figure also indicated the lethal drugs were dispensed by 29 different physicians in 2009.

Meanwhile, Oregon released its own end-of-the-year figures last week — showing 59 Oregon residents took their lives via assisted suicide. That is one lower than the 60 people who killed themselves in 2008.

The people who took their own lives were all aged between 48 and 95 and nearly all of them lived in the western part of the state. Most of them had been given a prognosis from their physician saying they would likely die within six months.

Montana, last year, became the third state in the nation to allow assisted suicides after the state Supreme Court.

Wesley J. Smith, a bioethics expert, is concerned that more states will join these three.

"There is a multi million dollar suicide promotion campaign ongoing in the country and around the world–aided and abetted by the mainstream media–that says that if you are sick, or disabled–suicide is empowering and rational," he says. "Indeed, it claims that such suicides are so right and worthy of being honored that the state should permit third parties to help make sure the suicidal person is made dead. As far as I am concerned, that is the express and implied fundamental message of assisted suicide advocacy."

"It seems to me that society can’t be half against suicide and half for it. You can’t have suicide prevention and assisted suicide promotion at the same time. The former message is subsumed by the latter. Suffering suicidal people don’t think that the quality or reasons for other guy’s suffering makes suicide okay, but theirs does not," he said.

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