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US: Oregon’s assisted suicide stats a ‘slippery slope’

April 2021

Kate Brown, Governor of Oregon (Source: Flickr)
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A report from the US State of Oregon on assisted dying could give impetus to America’s pro-euthanasia lobby, campaigners have warned.

In March, Oregon’s health authority published its latest report under the Death with Dignity Act. It revealed a 25 percent rise in people requesting termination during 2020.

Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act (DWDA) allows terminally ill Oregonians who meet specific qualifications to end their lives through voluntary self-administration of a lethal dose of medications prescribed by a physician for that purpose.

According to the latest report, 370 people were reported to have received prescriptions under the DWDA in the year 2020.

Not everyone took the medication. As of 22 January 2021, 245 people had died in 2020 from ingesting the prescribed medications, including 22 who had received prescriptions in previous years.

The report said, ‘Most patients were aged 65 years or older (81 percent) and white (97 percent)’.

Cancer accounted for most underlying illnesses at 66 percent, followed by patients with heart conditions at 11 percent and neurological disease at 8 percent.

The 2020 figures charted a 25 percent rise in the administration of the prescriptions from 2019 and advocacy group CARE has warned the figures could rise even further, not just in Oregon but elsewhere.

In a statement, CARE said, ‘Another year and it’s the same story. The number of people asking for assisted suicide under the terms of the DWDA has increased again.

‘Since the law was passed in 1997, nearly 3,000 people have opted for assisted suicide. Oregon State is further evidence that if you open the door to assisted suicide, you “normalise” it.’

According to the report, rising numbers of people requesting the drugs did so because they ‘did not want to be a burden to their families’.

‘This comes up again and again as a strong, underlying fear for many patients’, CARE said. ‘The answer to this is to reject the fear and show people that there is compassionate, quality end of life care available.’

While those who are pro-assisted suicide might argue this shows the law is working, and therefore use it to lobby other States to change their legislation to allow it, CARE warned against doing so.

‘This highlights both the slippery slope of assisted suicide – one key element of which is rising numbers – and the normalisation of assisted suicide once legalised.’

Apart from the District of Columbia, there are only nine US States that allow assisted suicide: California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Maine, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Washington; while it is allowed in Montana, this status is being disputed.