'Death with dignity' law makes abuse possible: expert

Thursday, March 12, 2020
 | 
Charlie Butts (OneNewsNow.com)

doctor writing prescriptionOregon has released its stats on assisted suicide – and it's raising the concern of an expert who opposes the practice and has argued the two-decades-old law that made it legal actually enables those who would abuse the law.

The state enacted its "Death with Dignity Act" in 1997. The figures for 2019 indicate the state logged 188 reported assisted suicide deaths; that compares to 178 in 2018 (see chart). Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition explains to OneNewsNow that the amount of time until death occurred after ingesting lethal drugs ranged from one minute to almost two days.

"When someone ingested the lethal drugs, it took 47 hours to die," he states. "… Imagine being a family member watching your loved one lay there for 47 hours as they die. I don't think that's what you call a 'death with dignity' any way you look at it."

The state admits it doesn't know the ingestion status of 58 people last year who had prescriptions and did die. That was up from 43 in 2018. According to Schadenberg, "some or all" of those deaths may represent unreported assisted deaths.

The EPC spokesman points out another piece of data that concerns him.

Schadenberg, Alex (EPC)"The [2019] data show that someone died 1,503 days [more than four years] after requesting assisted suicide," he shares. "So, 1,503 days is obviously a lot more than six months, [and] the law says you have to be six months from death [to obtain a prescription] – and we always knew that the six-month thing was a bit of a joke because it's hard to determine [that someone will die within] six months."

Two Oregon doctors who administered prescriptions for suicide were sent before the disciplinary board. One in 2018 lost his license to prescribe any medication to anybody. Another in 2019 remains unidentified, but the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is searching for information on the allegations and any action taken.

ECP has argued in the past that Oregon's assisted suicide law is designed to deceive and cover up abuse of the law. The yearly DWD reports, the group states, are based on data from the physicians who prescribe and carry out the assisted suicide death.

"The data is not independently verified," reports ECP. "Therefore, we don't know if the information from these reports is accurate or if abuse of the law occurs …. Since doctors rarely self-report abuse of the law or even self-report controversial decisions … the law enable[s] a cover-up of any and all concerns."

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