“Death with Dignity” Report Reveals Continued Neglect of Mental Illness

Salem, OR—Oregon recently released its 24th annual report on assisted suicide in the state. 

In 2021, 383 people received lethal prescriptions. Of that group, 218 people died from ingesting the lethal medication. That includes 20 patients who used prescriptions for assisted suicide acquired in previous years (2020 report). Since the law was passed in 1997, doctors have written 3,280 lethal prescriptions. 2,159 people have committed assisted suicide after ingesting the medications.

“The so-called ‘Death With Dignity’ Act continues to raise serious concerns, including Oregon’s failures to address mental health issues,” said Lois Anderson, ORTL executive director. “Out of 383 Oregonians prescribed with life-ending drugs in 2021, only two were referred for a psychiatric evaluation.”

Of the 133 doctors who wrote lethal prescriptions in 2021, around 102 provided one or two prescriptions. However, at least one doctor provided 47 lethal prescriptions. Additionally, at least half of the prescriptions for assisted suicide were written by physicians who had known the patient for five weeks or less (down from nine weeks in 2021). Of the 383 prescriptions for assisted suicide, at least half were written in the context of a physician-patient relationship of less than five weeks. At least one was written by a doctor who had known the patient for less than a week.

Increasing from last year, 78.9% of patients were covered by Medicare or Medicaid insurance. This trend raises questions about the quality of care being provided. It also suggests that patients are under financial pressure.“Mental illness is more prevalent in Oregon than in any other state,” continued Anderson. “People end their lives through assisted suicide for three main reasons. Those reasons are all triggers for major depression, a medical condition that can and should be treated. Suicide is not the answer.”

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