Update, April 8, 2016: Download our selection of data from the 2015 annual report.
Oregon Health Authority today released its report on the implementation of the state’s Death with Dignity Act in 2015. The report, titled, “Oregon Death with Dignity Act: 2015 Data Summary,” provides an overview of the data collected under the Act in the 18th year of implementation.
The data are consistent with statistics reported in prior years, showing a flawless implementation of the Act.
The 2015 Oregon Death with Dignity Act Report: An Overview
A total of 218 qualified terminally-ill adult Oregonians received a prescription for medications under the provisions of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act in 2015. Of all patients with prescriptions for death-hastening medications, 125 died peacefully after ingesting the medications and 7 others died after ingesting medications prescribed in 2014. In all, 60.6% of people who obtained medications died after taking them. This corresponds to 38.6 Death with Dignity Act (DWDA) deaths per 10,000 total deaths, or 0.39%.
The new data show an increase in requests for medications. Our Executive Director Peg Sandeen ascribes the spike to the interest and attention sparked in late 2014 by Brittany Maynard. “Her courage in sharing her story helped more and more people realize they did not have to suffer needlessly,” Peg said.
A total of 106 physicians wrote the 218 prescriptions. No referrals were made to the Oregon Medical Board for compliance issues.
The report follows the same format and reports on the same data as past reports.
Highlights from the 2015 Report
Of the 132 deaths under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act in 2015, 78% were aged 65 years or older. The youngest patient was 30. The median age at death was 73 years. As in previous years, decedents were mostly white (93.1%) and well-educated (47.6% had a least a BA).
Most patients, 72% had cancer, though the percentage of patients with some form of the illness continued to decline, as did the percentage of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), 6.1%. The percentage of heart disease patients spiked to 6.8%, compared to the average of 2% in previous years.
As in the past, most patients died at home (90.1%) and most (92.2%) were receiving hospice care. In other words, the 2015 report demonstrates both the benefit of people dying in the comfort of their homes and the complementary nature of Death with Dignity and the hospice option.
As in previous years, the three most frequently mentioned end-of-life concerns were a decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (96.2%), loss of autonomy (92.4%), and loss of dignity (75.4%).
Eighteen Years of Reporting
Since the Oregon Death with Dignity Act was affirmed in 1997 and implementation began in 1998, a total of 1,545 people have received prescriptions under the Act, of whom 991, or 64% have died after taking the medications. One out of three patients receiving medications choose not to use them. And deaths under the Act represent less than one half of one percent of all deaths in the state.
As every year, we are honored to see the results of our work passing and defending the groundbreaking physician-assisted dying law bring ease of mind and relief to Oregonians facing the end of life.
George Eighmey, our President, said, “Oregon’s 2015 Death with Dignity report provides supportive evidence for legislators and individuals in states contemplating enacting a similar law. In more than 18 years Oregon’s data proves our law protects the vulnerable and provides comfort to those facing the end of life. We urge supporters in states without an end of life option law to use Oregon’s report to prove the law works as intended.”