Oregon Health Authority Releases 2020 Death With Dignity report

Oregon recently released its 23rd annual report on assisted suicide in the state. 

Since the release of the 2019 report, Oregon saw a 25 percent increase in residents requesting lethal prescriptions for assisted suicide under the Death with Dignity Act (DWDA). In 2020, 370 people received lethal prescriptions. Of that group, 245 people died from ingesting the lethal medication (up from 188 in 2019). That includes 22 patients who used prescriptions for assisted suicide acquired in prior years.

Since the law was passed in 1997, doctors have written 2,895 lethal prescriptions. 1,905 men and women have committed assisted suicide after ingesting the medications.

“Since its inception, the so-called ‘Death With Dignity’ Act has raised serious concerns, including Oregon’s failures to address mental health concerns,” says Lois Anderson, Oregon Right to Life’s executive director. “Out of 370 Oregonians prescribed with life-ending drugs in 2020, only three were referred for psychological or psychiatric help.”

Of the 142 doctors who wrote lethal prescriptions in 2020, around 112 provided one or two prescriptions. At least one doctor, however, provided lethal prescriptions for 31 people.

Increasing from last year, 74 percent of patients were covered by Medicare or Medicaid insurance. This trend raises questions about the quality of care being provided, meaning that the government saves money by ending people’s lives prematurely instead of treating their health conditions long-term. It also suggests that patients are under financial pressure.

“Oregon is last in the nation when it comes to helping people struggling with their mental health,” continues Anderson. “People end their lives through assisted suicide for three main reasons. Those reasons are all triggers for major depression.”“Depression is a medical condition that can and should be treated. Suicide is not the answer.”

  • There was a 25 percent increase in residents requesting lethal prescriptions for assisted suicide.
  • 370 people received lethal prescriptions. Of that group, 245 died from ingesting the lethal medication (up from 188 in 2019).
  • Since the law was passed in 1997, doctors have written 2,895 lethal prescriptions. 1,905 people have committed assisted suicide after ingesting the medications.
  • Of the 142 physicians who wrote lethal prescriptions in 2020, approximately 112 provided one or two prescriptions.
  • At least one doctor provided lethal prescriptions for 31 people.
  • Only three patients were referred for psychological counseling.
  • 74 percent of patients were covered by Medicare or Medicaid insurance.
  • Despite being billed as the reason for the Act in the first place, uncontrollable pain is not listed as one of the top seven reasons assisted suicide is sought.
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