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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.

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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

Bonus Myth: People would flock to Oregon to die on our beaches

Lie to MeReality: This is one of the more whimsical myths which was very popular in Oregon during the 1990s, and one which has died down in popularity due to the complete lack of evidence to support it. According to state-issued reports, year after year, the number of deaths related to Oregon's Death with Dignity Act account for roughly the same percentage of total deaths in Oregon.

After the initial early days of the law, there's been a slight increase over time as more Oregon residents have become more aware of this end-of-life option. Had people been flocking to our beaches to die, you'd see a disproportionate increase in deaths related to the state's Death with Dignity Act compared to the total number of deaths. This simply hasn't happened as demonstrated by 13 years of data.

It's good to see at least one myth fade away into obscurity since it was so obviously incorrect. More than that, it was just plain silly.

Read more: Bonus Myth: People would flock to Oregon to die on our beaches

Myth 5: The Oregon and Washington laws are the same as the laws in the Netherlands

MythReality: It's odd, but there seems to be an assumption that all laws allowing for physician-assisted dying are the same. They're not. The Oregon and Washington Death with Dignity Acts are far more restrictive than the Dutch laws.

The reason opponents try to convince people the different laws are the same is to play on the slippery slope myth and to scare people into thinking about PolitiFact's 2009 Lie of the Year: 'Death Panels'. Rick Santorum tried this recently and was rebuffed by media outlets and the Dutch government.

Among the many safeguards, in order to qualify to use the Oregon or Washington law people must be:

Read more: Myth 5: The Oregon and Washington laws are the same as the laws in the Netherlands

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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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