The Oregon suicide rate has been increasing since 2000, three years after assisted suicide was legalized. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the suicide rate among 35 to 64 year olds grew by 49.3 per cent in Oregon from 1999 to 2010 compared to a national increase of 28 per cent. In 2012, 709 Oregonians committed suicide, an increase from 685 suicide deaths in 2011. In 2010, over $41 million was spent due to hospitalization from self-inflicted injury. These numbers do not include assisted suicides.
A 2012 Oregon Health Authority report showed that Oregon’s overall suicide rate was 41 per cent greater than the national one. White men living in rural counties were more likely to commit suicide. People suffering from mental illness, depression, and substance abuse were more at risk.
David Stabler, a reporter for the Oregonian, puts the blame on geography (with greater risk of suicide in Western states and rural areas), greater gun access, an aged population, and unemployment. Other commentators, however, see the issue differently.
“So much for the claim that legalizing assisted suicide will reduce other suicides,” commented Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, on his blog. He points out that there were 77 assisted suicide deaths in Oregon in 2012, which signals that since medically assisted-suicide is permitted, suicide is a tolerable solution to life’s problems.
Wesley Smith writes on his blog at the National Review Online that the culture is becoming increasingly pro-suicide, in particular, if someone is sick, disabled, or mentally ill. In fact, Smith notes, some mental health journal writers have created the categories of “rational” and “irrational” suicides and argue that only “irrational” suicides must be prevented. “But I believe that assisted suicide advocacy helps drive the meme that suicide is an acceptable answer to serious difficulties, weakening the societal bulwarks that sometimes prevent people from bringing their desire to be dead to completion,” Smith writes.