Why Choice is an Illusion?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Oregon's new assisted suicide report: chronic conditions; people with money and more

By Margaret Dore, Esq.
Updated February 19, 2014

Oregon's assisted suicide report for 2013 has been released to the public.[1]  Per the report, the number of deaths from ingesting a lethal dose is low when compared to overall deaths, just 71 out of 32,475 total.[2] The report is nonetheless significant for the following reasons.

Per the report, some people who died from a lethal dose under Oregon's assisted suicide act had chronic conditions such as diabetes.[3] People with these conditions, and other conditions such as cancer, can have years to live.[4]  Jeanette Hall, the woman in the photo, had cancer and was talked out of assisted suicide 13 years ago.[5]  Her doctor convinced her to be treated instead.[6] Legalization, regardless, encourages people with years to live to throw away their lives.

Per the report, most of the people who died from a lethal dose were white, aged 65 or older, and well-educated. See note [7].  People with these attributes are typically well off, i.e., the middle class and above.  The report's introduction implies that their deaths were voluntary, stating that Oregon's act "allows" residents to obtain a lethal dose for self-administration.  There is, however, nothing in the report stating that the specific deaths described in the report were self-administered and/or voluntary.[8] Older well-off people are, regardless, in a vulnerable demographic for abuse and exploitation.  This includes murder.  A 2009 MetLife Mature Market Institute Study states:
"Elders’ vulnerabilities and larger net worth make them a prime target for financial abuse . . . Victims may even be murdered by perpetrators who just want their funds and see them as an easy mark."[9]
Oregon's act was passed in 1997.[10]  Just three later, Oregon's suicide rate for other suicides was "increasing significantly."[11]  Last year, an article in Oregon's largest paper reported:
"New figures show a sharp rise in suicides among middle-aged Americans, and an even bigger increase in Oregon. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows suicides among men and women aged 35-64 increased 49 percent in Oregon from 1999-2010, compared to 28 percent nationally."[12] 
This "significant increase" is consistent with a suicide contagion in which legalizing one type of suicide encouraged other suicides.[13]

The new Oregon report also lists "concerns" as to why the people who died requested the lethal dose.[14]  The data for these concerns is originally generated by the prescribing doctor who uses a check-the-box form developed by suicide proponents.[15] One listed concern is "inadequate pain control or concern about it."[16]  There is, however, no claim that anyone who ingested the lethal dose was actually in pain.[17]

A copy of Oregon's new report can be viewed at this link: http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/year16-2013.pdf  For more information, please see the footnotes below.

Margaret Dore is an attorney in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal.  She is President of Choice is an Illusion, a human rights organization opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia.  She is one of the attorneys of record in the Montana assisted suicide case, Montanans Against Assisted Suicide (MAAS) v. Montana Board of Medical Examiners.  The case has already resulted in the removal of an official policy statement implying that assisted suicide is legal in Montana.  For more information, please click here.  Funds are needed for an upcoming appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.  Please consider a generous donation to MAAS and/or Choice is an Illusion, by clicking here and/or here. Thank you.

[1]  Oregon's Death with Dignity Act-2013, available at http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/year16-2013.pdf
[2]  Id., Report, page 2, first paragraph and footnote 1.
[3]  Id., Report, page 6 (underlying illness, listing chronic conditions such as "chronic lower respiratory disease" and "other illnesses"). See also page 7, footnote 6 (listing "diabetes mellitus").
[4]  See e.g., Opinion letter of and Dr. Richard Wonderly and Attorney Theresa Schrempp (regarding a young adult with diabetes and other chronic conditions such as HIV/AIDS, "each of these patients could live for decades"), available at http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/schrempp_wonderly_opn_ltr1.pdf
[5]  See Affidavit of Ken Stevens MD, available at: http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/signed-stevens-aff-9-18-12-as-filed.pdf  See also, Affidavit of Jeanette Hall, available at:  http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/jeanette-hall-affidavit.pdf
[6]  Id.
[7]  Report at note 1, page 2, last full paragraph.
[8]  Id..As a further explanation, the report page 1 says that Oregon's Act (DWDA) "allows" terminally ill Oregonians to self-administer the lethal dose.  Nothing says that administration "must" be by self-administration.  Self-administration can also be non-voluntary, for example, if the patient was under a threat of harm to a pet, or incapacitated, say due to alcohol. The rest of the report, pages 2-7 talks about the patient's "ingestion" of the lethal dose, which could also be voluntary, non-voluntary or involuntary. For more information about the term "ingestion," see Margaret K. Dore, "'Death with Dignity': What Do We Advise Our Clients?," King County Bar Association, Bar Bulletin, May 2009, at https://www.kcba.org/newsevents/barbulletin/BView.aspx?Month=05&Year=2009&AID=article5.htm. See also Margaret Dore, "'Death with Dignity': A Recipe for Elder Abuse and Homicide (Albeit not by Name)," Marquette Elder's Advisor, Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring 2010, pp. 391-2, available at http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/dore-marquette-law-review-article.pdf
[9]  MetLife, "Broken Trust: Elders, Family and Finances," 2009, at https://www.metlife.com/mmi/research/broken-trust-elder-abuse.html#findings
[10]  Oregon's Death with Dignity Act Report at note 1, supra, page 2, paragraph 2.
[11]  News Release, "Rising suicide rate in Oregon reaches higher than national average," Christine Stone, Oregon Public Health Information Officer, Oregon Health Authority, September 9, 2010.
[12]  David Stabler, "Why Oregon's suicide rate is among highest in the country, " The Oregonian, May 15, 2013, at http://blog.oregonlive.com/living_impact/print.html?entry=/2013/05/why_oregons_suicide_rate_is_am.html
[13]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_contagion
[14]  Report at note 1, page 6 (middle of page)
[15]  The check-the-box form is Question 15 of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act Attending Physician Follow-up Form, page 5, available at http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/attending-physician-follow-up-form.pdf
[16]  Report at note 1, page 6 (middle of page).
[17]  Id, entire report.