There's a sizable jump in the number of lethal prescriptions written in 2011 and the number of deaths in 2011 resulting from the drugs prescribed. (Since 2004 there has been a steady increase in both those categories.)
This is the second year in a row that 2 patients failed to die after ingesting the lethal drugs. In the 12 years prior to 2010, that only happened once (in 2005).
Again, only 1 patient out of the 114 who received lethal prescriptions was referred for a psychological consultation.
More doctors (62) wrote lethal prescriptions than in prior years, with the range being 1-14 prescriptions per doctor. That means at least 1 doctor wrote 14 lethal prescriptions!
Once again, the Oregon Public Health Division (OPHD) admits that the report is incomplete. They have no clue about the ingestion status of 25 patients. All they know is that 3 of the 25 died during 2011, but they don't know if those 3 died as a result of taking the lethal drugs or if they died of natural causes. 22 patients are unaccounted for.
For the second year in a row death-prescribing doctors were present for only 6 patients' deaths.
Lastly, as expected, no doctors were referred to the OR Medical Board for non-compliance with the Death with Dignity law.
To read the report you can click on the following link:
From the Washington Times [Excerpt]:
If adopted this November, a ballot initiative in Massachusetts will legalize physician-assisted suicide for patients whose conditions are predicted to produce death within six months. Initiative Petition 1112 claims to ensure that the patient's decision to commit suicide is voluntary. That claim, however, is misleading.
The initiative petition requires that two persons witness the patient's written request for a lethal prescription. One witness, however, can have a financial interest in the patient's death. That person can be the only witness present when the lethal drug is taken. Thus, an interested heir could pressure the patient, and no one would know because no objective witness is required when the drug is taken.
For the full letter to the editor from Temple Law School Professor Emeritus Stephen L. Mikochik Click Here.
In January the California State Senate begins hearings on AB 651, which would legalize assisted suicide in California. A similar bill presented in the State Assembly last year but didn't even come to a vote because of overwhelming Democrat and Republican opposition. There is a widespread public perception that those opposed to legalization are religious conservatives, and the logical position for a liberal is in support.
But the coalition that's formed to oppose the bill, Californians Against Assisted Suicide shows a diversity of political opinion that may be surprising to those who have not looked closely at the issue. In opposition are numerous disability rights organizations, generally seen as liberal-leaning; the Southern California Cancer Pain Initiative, a group associated with the American Cancer Society; the California Medical Association; and the League of United Latin American Citizens the oldest civil rights group in California. Catholic organizations are in the mix, but no person would consider this a coalition of religious conservatives. This is a diverse coalition representing many groups coming together across the political spectrum. Why?
Perhaps the most significant reason is the deadly mix between assisted suicide and profit-driven managed health care. Again and again, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and managed care bureaucracies have overruled physicians' treatment decisions, sometimes hastening patients' deaths. The cost of the lethal medication generally used for assisted suicide is about $35 to $50, far cheaper than the cost of treatment for most long-term medical conditions. The incentive to save money by denying treatment already poses a significant danger. This danger would be far greater if assisted suicide is legal.
If patients with limited finances are denied other treatment options by their insurance, they are, in effect, being steered toward assisted death. It is no coincidence that the author of Oregon's assisted suicide law, Barbara Coombs Lee, was an HMO executive when she drafted it.
A 1998 study from Georgetown University's Center for Clinical Bioethics underscores the link between profit-driven managed health care and assisted suicide. The research found a strong link between cost-cutting pressure and a willingness to prescribe lethal drugs to patients, were it legal to do so. The study warns that there must be "a sobering degree of caution in legalizing [assisted suicide] in a medical care environment that is characterized by increasing pressure on physicians to control the cost of care."
The California bill is modeled after a nearly identical law that went into effect in Oregon in 1997. A closer look at Oregon highlights the many flaws.
Each year, Oregon publishes a statistical report that leaves out more than it states. For example, several of these reports have included language such as "We cannot determine whether assisted suicide is being practiced outside the framework of the law." The statute provided no resources or even authority to detect violations. All we know comes from doctors who prescribed the drugs, not family members or friends who probably have additional information about the patients. Doctors that fail to report their lethal prescriptions face no penalty. The state doesn't even talk to doctors who refused to assist the very same patients other physicians later helped to die, though these doctors who first said "no" may have viewed the patients as not meeting legal requirements, important information if one wishes to evaluate the law's outcomes. Autopsies are not required, so there's no way to ascertain the deceased was actually terminally ill, opening the door to another Dr. Kevorkian. The state's research has never reported on several prominent cases inconsistent with the law – these cases came to light only via the media. Last March, an editorial in The Oregonian complained that the law's reporting system "seems rigged to avoid finding" the answers.
We must separate our private wishes for what we each may hope to have available for ourselves someday and, rather, focus on the significant dangers of legalizing assisted suicide in this society as it operates today. This column is sure to bring howls from those already ideologically supportive of legalization, but anyone who wants to look deeper, beyond the simplistic mantras of choice and "right to die," are encouraged to read other articles and testimony that can be found in these locations: