AMNews: May 12, 2008. Oregon still stands alone: Ten years of physician-assisted suicide … American Medical News

AMNews: May 12, 2008. Oregon still stands alone: Ten years of physician-assisted suicide … American Medical News


Through the end of last year, only 340 more Oregonians had chosen physician-assisted suicide. And after a decade, Oregon still stands as the lone state to legalize the practice.

There is no tidal wave of patients moving to Oregon to die, and there is no evidence of a slippery slope toward involuntary euthanasia there, as opponents once feared. At the same time, there is no sign that many states will rush to follow Oregon’s lead on physician-assisted suicide, as supporters still hope.

Though Oregon’s law remains seldom used and unduplicated, its impact on physicians, patients and the movement to improve end-of-life care cannot be overstated.

A well written, balanced article.

For the record I’m for it.  Also for the record, as an EM Physician I’ll never ever be in a position where that opinion matters one whit.


Comments

  1. Soo, someone may have to call me an idiot, but this article is date May 12th 2008, which confused me because it’s most certainly the 5th. Are they using the future print date for the article, or am I missing something? Just so I don’t look totally oblivious, I usually don’t read online publications before they come out in print, more like news stories that are posted the same day as they’re printed…

  2. GruntDoc: bringing you the news from the future!

  3. Jim in Texas says:

    I think I posted this originally on your site a few years back, but my feelings haven’t changed and I think the facts are still pertinent.

    I suspect that a serious national debate on euthanasia would reflect the same conflicted viewpoints many Americans have about abortion. I also believe our experience with abortion is instructive when considering the casualness with which many people consider abortion. When it was legalized abortion wasn’t meant to be an easy way to correct an oversight to properly use contraception.

    I become very, VERY nervous when I contemplate the government, state or federal, getting involved with the process of dying.

    The ultimate, (to me) Nanny state power is euthanasia.

    Euthanasia, legalized in Belgium in 2002, although it had been accepted in practice since at least the early 90’s.

    “A number of quantitative studies of the rate and major characteristics of these practices have been conducted in 1990, 1995 and 2001. These have demonstrated a disturbingly high incidence of euthanasia being carried out without the patient’s explicit request and an equally disturbing failure by medical professionals to report euthanasia cases to the proper regulatory authority.”(Emphasis added)

    In addition, another survey (The original link is lost, I’m looking for a replacement) indicates that many of the euthanasia cases being reported now show that family members were “strongly” urging their ill elderly relatives to consider euthanasia, presumably to relieve the family members of a perceived burden.

    As originally contemplated, doctor assisted suicide was supposed to be a rare event to ease the unrelenting pain and suffering of a person who was not going to get better; what its become is a way to knock off granny before she becomes a financial burden on the family or to allow the kids to get their hands on granny’s estate before illness eats up the inheritance.

    And, more and more, it appears granny’s not being consulted on the subject.

    As I said in the beginning, it a conflicted and conflicting subject clouded by more emotion than rational discussion, but as for me, today, I’d rather take my chances with death without the state jiggering the odds; it’s a crooked deck and we’re all going to lose, it how long you make your stake last.

  4. What Jim fails to realize is the government is really not involved in physician assisted suicide other than allowing the PATIENT to make that decision. Jim, you seem uninformed on the subject and biased by your religious beliefs, as evidenced by your comparisons to abortion.

    I have studied this topic at length and wrote an award winning essay on the subject as a medical student. The law clearly states the patient must be of competent mind. This is not a family decision to be made about a demented patient who would not have wanted this.

    Furthermore, the real question we must ask ourselves as patient advocates is: What could be more compassionate than allowing a competent terminally ill patient the right to die on their own terms?

    This is the ultimate in compassion. And if you can take your religious beliefs out of the equation you could see it in no other way. In forty nine states we show more compassion to our pets than we do our terminally ill people.

    Anyone opposed to this kind of legislation is effectively trying to impose their own religious and/or moral beliefs on others, judging those who are terminally ill and saying to them, “how dare you choose to end your life in your own chosen way, I don’t think that is right and I know what is best.” And nothing could be worse than that.

    Oregon is progressive and ahead of the rest of the nation. Right now this is not a “hot button” issue throughout the country, however I predict that in due time the rest of the nation will catch up….

    And I hope that we do, should me or any of my loved ones ever be in such a position.

  5. Jim in Texas says:

    ”What Jim fails to realize is the government is really not involved in physician assisted suicide other than allowing the PATIENT to make that decision.

    Jim, you seem uninformed on the subject and biased by your religious beliefs, as evidenced by your comparisons to abortion”.

    Wow, where’s my nomex?

    I’m glad I only “seem” uninformed, that implies I might have the chance of convincing you I’m somewhat informed.

    First of all I commend the state of Oregon for taking the initiative to resolve a problem that they believe they have. That’s a triumph for the 10th Amendment, a rare and getting rarer event these days.

    I have no objection (or right to object) to the people of Oregon for passing this measure. I will when Texas starts looking at it.

    And, snide comment aside, my objection to PAS or euthanasia is much more grounded in cynicism than in Bible thumping; government involvement once started never get less, only more.

    ”What Jim fails to realize is the government is really not involved in physician assisted suicide other than allowing the PATIENT to make that decision.”

    Really? The government’s not involved? Who gave the physicians legal cover to participate in a procedure that is illegal in 49 other states? The government didn’t established guidelines and procedures? That same government can’t change those same guideline and procedures? To say the government is not involved is incredibly naïve and shortsighted. I’ll give you the benefit of doubt – a non-reciprocated courtesy – and allow that I’m more cynical and jaded than you.

    Do I “fail” to realize that Oregon’s laws do not permit euthanasia? No, I don’t. PAS is not euthanasia; yet.

    Am I concern that legalized euthanasia is a reasonable consequence of PAS? You betcha!

    There will come a situation where a patient clearly wants to end his/her life but is physically incapable of doing so, what then? If the physician won’t help how about a family member? Friend? Who?

    ” and biased by your religious beliefs, as evidenced by your comparisons to abortion”

    Who brought religion into this? That’s an arrogant presumption on your part with absolutely no basis other than your own prejudices.

    My only referral to abortion was to make the point that what was once supposed to be rare and infrequent has evolved into a procedure as common as Lasik – and cheaper.

    The comparison was suppose to illustrate how PAS and euthanasia in the Netherlands have become as equally common. If I failed to adequately make that point, I apologize.

    ” Furthermore, the real question we must ask ourselves as patient advocates is: What could be more compassionate than allowing a competent terminally ill patient the right to die on their own terms?”

    I agree, my only objection is the logical extension of that question: What could be more compassionate than allowing an incompetent/unconscious/comatose/unresponsive/etc terminally ill patient the right to die on what should be their own terms?

    My fears aren’t theoretical. As I quoted in my earlier post “These have demonstrated a disturbingly high incidence of euthanasia being carried out without the patient’s explicit request and an equally disturbing failure by medical professionals to report euthanasia cases to the proper regulatory authority.”

    I didn’t make that up and I don’t think I’m over reacting. A survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 2001; (344: 605-607) found that, with the increasing acceptance of PAS, the percentage of patients who died through PAS because they felt a burden to others (not necessarily the only reason, however) increased from 12% in 1998 to 63% in 2000.

    How did that presumption of “burden” come about? It didn’t happen in a vacuum.

    And that’s just PAS, what will be the sentiment with legalized euthanasia?

    Look, you are a highly educated person with significant responsibilities and I have a profound and deep respect for you and your skills. Guys like you and GruntDoc enjoy a position of trust with G.I.s unmatched anywhere else in my experience and I’m not the correspondent you seem to think I am. I’m just convinced, based on my years of experience, that when killing becomes a solution to a problem then that’s a problem.

    We – well, many of us- are conflicted on this subject which is why it remains a hot button topic; its controversial. Would I like to be able to pull the pin when I’m in pain and terminal? Probably, I don’t know, I’ll call you and let you know.

    But I damn well know I don’t want my kids to have a hold of the same pin (sorry Jimmy and Scotty, no offense)

    Hmmm, on review I don’t think I left any dangling obtuse religious or sanctimonious statements in my response but if I did, I authorize GruntDoc to modify them.