‘It’s a scandal’: First out-of-state patients arrive seeking assisted suicide

By Around the Web

(Image by Lothar Dieterich from Pixabay)
(Image by Lothar Dieterich from Pixabay)

By Katelynn Richardson
Daily Caller News Foundation

  • Oregon’s 2022 Death with Dignity Act report confirms the first out-of-state patients have traveled to the state seeking lethal drugs, with three out of the 278 total 2022 deaths recorded for patients with out-of-state residencies.
  • The actual number of deaths for out-of-state patients may be higher, as the Oregon Health Authority notes it “does not receive death certificates from other states” and therefore cannot be certain of the total amount.
  • “We should all be concerned that pro-euthanasia legislators in Oregon are trying to open the industry to the rest of the world,” Lois Anderson, executive director of Oregon Right to Life, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The first out-of-state assisted suicide patients have traveled to Oregon to access lethal drug prescriptions, according to the state’s latest report.

The median time between first request and death, 30 days, and median duration of patient-physician relationships, 5 weeks, is unchanged from 2021. But the 2022 report does include something new: the first three recorded instances of out-of-state patient deaths since Oregon stopped enforcing the residency requirement last year.

While advocates have warned that people are already traveling to Oregon seeking assisted suicide — one nonprofit even advertises a “minimum 15-day process” for out-of-state patients — these are the first noted in an official report.

“Tragically, Oregon has opened itself up to suicide tourism and now invites Americans to travel there to end their lives,” Tom Shakely, Chief Engagement Officer at Americans United for Life, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“At the same time, Oregon’s latest report on the impact of their ‘Death with Dignity Act’ reveals that the median doctor-patient relationship was only five weeks,” he continued. “Five weeks is not a relationship, and especially not one where suicidal persons can become known in a meaningful way to doctors who may be interested in helping them end their lives.”

Enforcement for the Death with Dignity Act (DWDA) residency requirement ended on March 28, 2022, when the state settled a lawsuit brought by End of Life Choices Oregon Director Dr. Nicholas Gideonse, who argued the requirement violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal treatment guarantee. The legislature is currently considering a bill to officially repeal the requirement.

Candidates for the DWDA must still be 18, able to consent, and diagnosed with an illness that will lead to death within six months.

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A total of 431 people were prescribed lethal medications in 2022, with 278 dying as of Jan. 20, 2023, up from 238 in 2021 and accounting for an estimated 0.6% of Oregon’s total deaths, according to the report. But the actual number of 2022 deaths could be higher than listed, as the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) “does not receive death certificates from other states unless the decedent was an Oregon resident.”

“[If] an Oregon DWDA patient dies out of state and was not a resident of Oregon, OHA is unlikely to obtain notice of the death,” the report says, adding that the numbers thus “may not represent all DWDA deaths from out-of-state residents who obtained a DWDA prescription from an Oregon health care provider.”

Anti-assisted suicide advocates have voiced concern that removing the state residency requirement, which Vermont is also currently considering a bill to repeal, will draw people to the state to end their lives.

“The top three reasons Oregon cites for people pursuing suicide are disability concerns,” Shakely said. “It’s a scandal that anyone fearing loss of autonomy or loss of dignity would be encouraged to end their life.”

Top end-of-life concerns cited by DWDA patients are being less able to engage in activities that make life enjoyable, losing autonomy and losing dignity, according to the report. Other concerns include becoming a burden on caregivers, losing control of bodily functions, inadequate pain control and the financial implications of treatment.

Lois Anderson, executive director of Oregon Right to Life, told the Daily Caller News Foundation it is concerning that “pro-euthanasia legislators in Oregon are trying to open the industry to the rest of the world.”

“The most recent annual report for the so-called ‘Death with Dignity’ Act demonstrates the continued industrialization of physician-assisted suicide in Oregon,” said Anderson. “The death doctors dispensing lethal drugs are increasingly shuffling vulnerable people through the system. We should all be concerned that pro-euthanasia legislators in Oregon are trying to open the industry to the rest of the world. Instead of offering suicide, we should care for and support people at the end of their lives.”

Since 1997, 2,454 people — 66% of the total 3,712 who received prescriptions — have chosen to end their lives through the DWDA. The annual report, which tracks information about patients who chose to end their lives, was mandated when the DWDA was passed in 1997.

At least seven states are also considering legislation to legalize assisted suicide.

The OHA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This story originally was published by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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