A new report by Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) Associate Scholar Richard Doerflinger, M.A. finds that deaths by assisted suicide in Oregon nearly doubled in just four years, with 143 assisted suicide deaths occurring in 2017 compared to 73 in 2013.
Doerflinger, a Public Policy Fellow with the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture and an Adjunct Fellow in Bioethics and Public Policy at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, writes in Oregon’s Assisted Suicides: The Up-to-Date Reality in 2017:
“The Oregon system is tailor-made to conceal, not reveal, abuses. The physicians involved in prescribing the drugs are the only people allowed to file reports on these cases. The Oregon Health Authority itself says it has no legal warrant to do anything but take this self-reporting at face value.”
Doerflinger’s analysis comes as news reports document assisted suicide advocates’ push to expand Oregon’s 20-year-old law – the oldest in the country – to include patients with non-fatal degenerative illnesses, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease and to allow doctors or guardians to withhold spoon-feeding and water (United States) to patients who willingly eat and drink, or to legalize direct euthanasia by lethal injection to the mentally incompetent (Canada). Doerflinger notes that Oregon’s state health department already takes a broad interpretation of “terminal disease” as an illness likely to cause death within six months without treatment, as discovered by an independent investigator.
“Can anyone now deny that the ‘slippery slope’ of doctor-prescribed death better resembles a greased conveyor belt?” said CLI President Chuck Donovan. “This report shows an alarming increase in the death toll under Oregon’s law. Even more alarming is that, for some, this body count is not high enough yet. All the assurances of strict safeguards are exposed for the smokescreen they are. Where is the dignity in being starved to death, unable to defend oneself or even comprehend? Where is the mercy in being denied the most basic, ordinary human needs? State legislatures considering assisted suicide bills are being provided a glimpse into their future, if they do not act wisely. They should heed the warning.”
States currently considering legislation to legalize assisted suicide include Connecticut, Hawaii, and New Jersey. Utah recently passed a bill prohibiting assisted suicide.
More disturbing statistics identified in Doerflinger’s report:
- 14 of the 2017 deaths were from drugs prescribed in previous years
- In 2017, only 3.5% of patients were referred for psychological evaluation, down from 4% in 2013-2016 and 6% on average from 1998 to 2012.
- The prescribing physician was only present at the time of death 16% of the time in 2017 (an average of 15% for all years).
- The time from first request for the drugs, to death from those drugs, has been as long as 1,009 days (over five times the projected life expectancy); in 2017 it was as long as 603 days.
- In 2017, at least two patients had seizures after ingesting the drugs.
- The time period from ingesting the drugs to death is unknown in most cases; in the 40 cases where it is known in 2017, patients took as long as 21 hours to die, compared to nine hours in 2016.
- In 2017 it took as long as four hours for the patient to lose consciousness, compared to a maximum of one hour previously; this figure is not known for 105 of the 143 patients in 2017.
- In 2017, only 31% of patients had private health insurance (compared to 54% in 2016), and 68% had only governmental insurance such as Medicaid and/or Medicare (compared to 45% the previous year).