Oregon Bemoans High Suicide Rate While State Promotes Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 10, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Oregon Bemoans High Suicide Rate While State Promotes Assisted Suicide

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
September 10
, 2010

Salem, OR (LifeNews.com) — Oregon officials are upset the state has a high suicide rate, but one bioethicists says the stance is duplicitous because the state promotes the practice of assisted suicide. Oregon’s suicide rate is going through the roof, and the Oregon Health Authority said it is alarmed by that fact.

"Oregon’s suicide rate is 35 percent higher than the national average," the state health department said. "The rate is 15.2 suicides per 100,000 people compared to the national rate of 11.3 per 100,000."

After decreasing in the 1990s, suicide rates have been increasing significantly since 2000, according to the new report OHA released entitled “Suicides in Oregon: Trends and Risk Factors."

The report also details recommendations to prevent the number of suicides in Oregon.

“Suicide is one of the most persistent yet preventable public health problems. It is the leading cause of death from injuries – more than even from car crashes. Each year 550 people in Oregon die from suicide and 1,800 people are hospitalized for non-fatal attempts,” said Lisa Millet of the department.

But author and attorney Wesley J. Smith, a bioethics watchdog, says the numbers fail to include the number of elderly people who kill themselves under the state’s first-in-the-nation law.

"That is bad, but these are phony statistics that under count the actual toll by about 10% since they don’t include assisted suicides–which have been redefined legally in Oregon as not suicide," Smith says. "But they are suicides no matter what they are called and whether or not they are counted as such by the state. I think that matters."

The Oregon health department released a list of ways to prevent suicides and Smith noted "the absence of mention of assisted suicide in methods for prevention."

The report mentioned removing guns — and Smith responded, "How about also removing lethal prescriptions?"

"Here’s something that should be looked into by mental health professionals: When a state has a pro suicide policy for some people, does it becomes harder to tell other suicidal people that suicide is not the answer? I don’t see how it wouldn’t," Smith observed.

"Maybe one helpful change that could improve Oregon’s lamentable suicide rate would be for its leaders to begin speaking out against assisted suicide–even if it remains legal. That would at least put some consistency into official efforts at suicide prevention," he concluded.


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