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Oregon Death with Dignity 2011 Report
Posted by Peg Sandeen, PhD, MSW on March 7, 2012
The Oregon Public Health Division released its statutorily-required annual report about the Oregon Death with Dignity Act and the terminally ill individuals who qualified under its provisions. The release reflects statistics from the 14th year of implementation, and encompasses data from January 7, 2011-February 29, 2012—roughly 13 months.
Consistent with information from prior years, the data show Death with Dignity is a rarely used option for a small number of terminally ill Oregonians. The report indicates the process was implemented, in every instance, under the strict guidelines written into Oregon law and the established medical standard of care that has evolved since implementation.
During the 13 months covered by the report, 114 qualified patients received a prescription under the provisions of the law. Approximately 62%, or 71 terminally ill individuals, died as a result of ingesting medication prescribed under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. Sixty-two different physicians wrote prescriptions under the law. According to the Health Division's report, in the 14 year history of implementation, 935 prescriptions have been written and 596 individuals have ingested medication and died using the standards spelled out in Oregon law.
Similar to prior years, most of the qualified patients who used the medication to hasten death were over 65, had a terminal diagnosis of cancer, and received palliative care service through hospice. Additionally, participants tended to be well-educated (48% with a four year degree or more), had access to some form of insurance (96% with public or private insurance), and died at home (94%). The most commonly reported end-of-life concerns were: less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable (90%), losing autonomy (88.7%), and loss of dignity (74.6%).
According to George Eighmey, a former Oregon legislator and tireless champion for those who are terminally ill, "The 14 year report continues to prove that Oregon's law is seldom used, but provides a safe and humane option for all those facing their end of life."
The Oregon Public Health Division makes all of the reports available online. Also available are documents about the history of the law, requirements for qualification, and the text of the law.
Defend dignity. Take action.
You are the key to ensuring well-crafted Death with Dignity laws for all Americans. With your financial and volunteer help, the Death with Dignity National Center, a 501(c)(3), non-partisan, nonprofit organization, has been the leading advocate in the Death with Dignity movement. Individual contributions helped us pass new Death with Dignity laws in Washington and Vermont, defend the Oregon law, and provide education and outreach programs for the vitality of the Death with Dignity movement.