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Several times a day we answer questions from students, terminally-ill individuals, and many others about the specifics of Death with Dignity laws, dying peacefully, end-of-life resources, and many other things related to death and dying. This blog category helps answer many of these frequently asked questions.

Please also see our Frequently Asked Question and Physicians' Frequently Asked Questions pages for more information.

Have other questions? Contact Melissa with your suggestions for other blog posts.

Oregon's 2012 Death with Dignity Report

Written into Death with Dignity laws is the requirement the state's Health Department must issue annual reports of information collected during the medication request process.

Oregon's Public Health Division recently issued their 15th annual report, and consistent with all previous years, the data continue to show the law works the way it's intended: rarely used, but providing comfort to countless individuals who know they have options at the end of their lives.

Some quick facts about the usage of Oregon's law in 2012:

  • 77 people hastened their deaths under the Oregon law.
  • This accounts for 0.2% of all deaths in Oregon.
  • The top three concerns people expressed to their doctors when requesting the medication were centered around wanting control over their final days.
  • Of the end-of-life concerns expressed, the least common was "financial implications of treatment."

The numbers also show people who request the medication under Oregon's law are receiving high quality end-of-life care:

Read more: Oregon's 2012 Death with Dignity Report

The Need for Carefully Crafted Death with Dignity Laws

The Lancet journal

Physician-assisted death happens every day in every state. This reality is often avoided by patients and the medical community in discussions about end-of-life care, and it's time we started talking about it. A new study published last week in The Lancet looked at this situation in the Netherlands.

The researchers analyzed the prevalence of assisted death before and after the Dutch law went into effect in 2002. The results of this study showed two important trends regarding assisted death:

  • The practice was already happening before the law was in place: The same percentage of deaths were attributed to physician-assisted death before and after the law was in place.
  • Presence of a law doesn't result in increased use: The law didn't lead to a common myth spouted by opponents that legally regulating assisted death will lead to people clamoring to access the law. Or as it was known in Oregon, "People would flock to our beaches to die."

Read more: The Need for Carefully Crafted Death with Dignity Laws

Washington 2011 Death with Dignity Report Attracts Little Media Attention

Robb Miller of Compassion & Choices of Washington

Robb Miller has been the Executive Director of Compassion & Choices of Washington—an affiliate of Compassion & Choices—since 2000. He was also one of the leaders of the coalition that passed Initiative 1000, the Washington Death with Dignity Act, with nearly 60% of the vote in 2008.

When the Washington Department of Health issued its third annual report on the Washington State Death with Dignity Act in early May, there was little interest from the media and no good news for opponents of patient autonomy at the end-of-life.

The lack of interest from the media tells us there was nothing sensational and no controversies to report. On the other hand, less media coverage means less awareness about the law.

Only 16 more people received prescriptions for life-ending medication as compared to 2010, and only 10 more died after receiving prescriptions. Of the 94 individuals who died, 70 self-administered medication, and 19 didn't—32% of patients who acquired prescriptions in 2011 elected not to take the medication. This is bad news for opponents who claimed that people who use the law would be anxious to die and would take the medication prematurely. The report indicates just the opposite.

Read more: Washington 2011 Death with Dignity Report Attracts Little Media Attention

Oregon Death with Dignity 2011 Report

Oregon Death with Dignity Act Prescriptions and Deaths 1998-2011

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.

Read more: Oregon Death with Dignity 2011 Report

The Major Myths about Death with Dignity Laws

So often, when people understand the facts about Death with Dignity laws they strongly support this important end-of-life option. In the two states with Death with Dignity Acts, a poll by the National Journal and The Regence Foundation found 77% of Oregonians and 70% of Washingtonians have a favorable opinion of their Death with Dignity Acts.

Last week, we debunked common myths opponents use to scare people about Death with Dignity on our blog, and these posts are summarized below. These lies spread by opponents are a detriment to a proper debate. Let's base this discussion on facts, shall we?

MYTHMyth 1: It's a recipe for elder abuse

Reality: The most telling sign of this lie is the lack of anything supporting the opposition's claim. In all fifteen years of the law's existence in Oregon, there's never been a case of coercion or undue influence related to the Death with Dignity Act. Not one.

Read more: The Major Myths about Death with Dignity Laws

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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, non-profit organization, has been the leading advocate in the death with dignity movement. Member contributions helped us pass a new Death with Dignity law in Washington, defend the Oregon law, and provide education and outreach programs for the vitality of the death with dignity movement.

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