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Oregon Physician-Assisted Suicide Prescriptions up 30% in 2023

by | Mar 22, 2024

By Ashley Sadler, Oregon Right to Life Communications Director

Oregon saw a massive increase in physician-assisted suicide deaths and lethal prescriptions in 2023, according to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA)’s 26th annual report on the state’s “Death With Dignity Act” (DWDA).

The Wednesday report shows an almost 30% increase in physician-assisted suicide prescriptions and a 20% increase in reported deaths following ingestion of the prescribed drugs, the OHA highlighted in a Wednesday press release. Physicians in Oregon wrote 560 DWDA prescriptions in 2023, compared with 433 in 2022. 367 individuals reportedly died in Oregon after consuming the drugs last year, compared with 304 in 2022.

Per the OHA, the sharp increase is partly linked to a law passed in 2023 that removed the residency requirement for people requesting the drugs.

82% of those who died from Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide drugs last year were over the age of 65, and 66% had cancer. The oldest person to die of physician-assisted suicide in Oregon was 102. The youngest was just 29.

The most frequently cited reasons for pursuing physician-assisted suicide were loss of autonomy (92%), decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (88%), and loss of dignity (64%), according to the report.

Oregon Right to Life Executive Director Lois Anderson said, “This year’s Death With Dignity Act report demonstrates our state’s appalling lack of care and respect for the lives of Oregonians and those who travel from out of state to receive these death-inducing drugs. Physician-assisted suicide targets vulnerable people who are made to feel that their lives are no longer valuable or worth living.”

She added, “Instead of continuing to prescribe toxic cocktails of life-ending drugs, we should provide truly compassionate measures, ensuring that people facing end-of-life decisions have access to high-quality palliative care.”

Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation president Sharon L. Quick, MD, MA, said, “Hastening death with lethal drugs is never urgent and never necessary, and there is no guarantee of a ‘peaceful death.”

She also criticized the elimination of Oregon’s “Death With Dignity” residency requirement.

“Allowing out-of-state residents to come to Oregon for evaluation by a doctor who may not know them and has an even greater chance of missing depression and coercion shows lack of respect for these patients,” Quick said. “They may experience pressure to take the drugs quickly without the company of loved ones, given the time and effort of travel and the complications that might ensue if they take them in their home state. A rash decision becomes their last one.”

Since Oregon lawmakers passed the DWDA in 1997, a total of 4,274 people have been prescribed lethal drugs, and at least 2,847 people (67%) have died after consuming them.

Categories: Assisted Suicide