(LifeSiteNews) – More than 2,400 people have ended their lives thanks to Oregon’s assisted suicide law, with a new report revealing that the majority of the users now come from government-subsidized health insurance, and a comparable amount citing the belief that they consider themselves a burden on others.
This week, Right to Life News UK reported on a study published in the British Medical Association publication BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, concerning the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. The act’s passage made Oregon the first state in the U.S. to allow assisted suicide in 1997; it was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006.
Between 1998 and 2022, it is calculated that 2,454 have used the law to kill themselves, with an average age of 72.5. Last year, Oregon abandoned its residency requirement for assisted suicide, making the state a magnet for Americans interested in killing themselves.
The authors of the BMJ paper reviewed all of the Oregon Health Authority’s annual reports on assisted suicide since 1998 to identify trends in those taking advantage of the law. The average age of subjects has remained relatively steady, but other changes suggest increased senses of external pressure to commit suicide, and decreased efforts from medical professionals to prevent them from doing so.
“Over this time, patients’ health funding status changed from predominantly private (65%) to predominantly government support (79.5%), and there was an increase in patients feeling a burden and describing financial concerns as reasons for choosing an assisted death,” the authors found.
In the regime’s first five years, 30% of patients cited concerns about being a burden, but since 2017, that share has risen, to the point that last year 46% said the same.
Just as concerning, the amount of time patients spend discussing their issues with doctors before deciding to end their lives has shrunk from eighteen weeks in 2010 to just five last year, with a mere one percent of cases referred by doctors for psychiatric assessment.
The researchers also called out troubling gaps in the state’s reporting, such as a lack of data on the advice given to patients with non-cancerous, non-terminal conditions such as “arthritis, arteritis, complications from a fall, hernia, sclerosis, ‘stenosis’ and anorexia nervosa,” including why patients refused treatment options.
Another reporting deficiency concerned how many recipients of lethal drugs experienced complications with those drugs, such as seizures, regurgitation, or regaining consciousness.
“Complications associated with PAS drugs were reported in an average of 11% between 2010 and 2022, with a peak of 14.8% in 2015,” the report says. “In 2022 complications were identified in 6% of patients, though data on complications was missing in 206 patients (74%). Over the last 25 years, nine patients have regained consciousness.” Moreover, the state’s reporting “does not include prolonged deaths or patients who regained consciousness in their complication percentages.”
“Oregon is often cited as a stable example of assisted dying legislation. Despite Oregon producing detailed and regular post-death reports of value, there are considerable gaps in the data across US states,” the authors conclude. “Most importantly, there is no monitoring in any form of the quality of the consultation in which the decision was made to prescribe lethal drugs.” They call for “detailed prospective studies examining how socioeconomic factors influence the wish for an assisted death.”
“This analysis has revealed some truly alarming findings,” reacted Right to Life UK spokeswoman Catherine Robinson. “The number of people ending their lives in this manner has increased each year while their time with medical professionals appears to have decreased. At the same, the number who report ‘being a burden’ as one of their end-of-life concerns is approaching 50%. Oregon should scrap this dangerous law immediately and return to assisting patients to live, not to die.”
Ten states plus the District of Columbia currently allow assisted suicide. Federally, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have called for ending suicide in the nation’s capital, over which Congress has jurisdiction. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has proposed rescinding federal regulations that provide conscience protections for professionals who do not want to engage in “abortion, sterilization, and certain other health services,” “assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing,” and for “managed care organizations with moral or religious objections to counseling or referral for certain services.”
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States can be reached by dialing 988.