Once again the Oregon Death With Dignity Act annual report is more about numbers than actual information. It is important to note that there are no case reports connected to the annual report on Oregon’s assisted suicides, and there is no guarantee that all the cases of assisted suicide have been reported.
The number of reported deaths has risen in 2007 to 49, from 46 reported deaths in 2006. More interesting is the fact that the number of prescriptions rose to 85 in 2007 from 65 in 2006. 3 of the 49 deaths in 2007 received their prescription in 2006.
Out of the 85 prescriptions in 2007, 46 died from assisted suicide, 26 died of their underlying disease, and 13 were alive at the end of 2007.
The most frequently mentioned end-of-life concerns were: loss of autonomy (100 per cent), decreased ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (86 per cent), and loss of dignity (86 per cent). One-third stated that they were concerned about inadequate pain control in 2007, which is up from 26 per cent in 2006. It must be noted that there is no differentiation in the report between a patient’s lack of adequate pain control at the time of asking for the prescription and a patient’s fear of inadequate pain relief in the future.
Complications were reported in the cases of 3 patients, all of which regurgitated some of the drugs. One person lived 3.5 days. The question is not answered as to how the complications were dealt with. We also must question the total number of complications, knowing that a physician was present at the assisted suicide only 22 per cent of the time.
Since 1997, 341 patients have been reported to die from assisted suicide in Oregon.