Sunday, June 10, 2012

In Oregon, other suicides have increased with legalization of physician-assisted suicide

Scott Helman's article about legalizing assisted suicide in Massachusetts implies that doing so will eliminate violent suicides.  I am physician in Oregon where assisted suicide is legal.  Official statistics from the state of Oregon do not support this claim.

Based on an Oregon Public Health report released in 2010, Oregon's overall suicide rate, which excludes suicide under Oregon's assisted suicide act, is 35% above the national average. The report documents that the rate has been "increasing significantly since 2000." 

Just three years prior, in 1997, Oregon legalized assisted suicide.  Suicide has thus increased, not decreased, with legalization of assisted suicide.  Moreover, many of these deaths are violent.  For 2007, which is the most recent year reported on Oregon's website, "[f]irearms were the dominant mechanism of suicide among men."  The claim that legalization prevents violent deaths is without factual support.

Factual support for the above statistics:
Oregon Health Authority News Release September 9, 2010 at and,
"Suicides in Oregon, Trends and Risk Factors," Executive Summary, p.4, at  

William L. Toffler MD
Professor of Family Medicine
Oregon Health & Science University
Posrtland OR