Being a burden to others, main concern for patients who seek physician-assisted suicide.
Two reports - 2000 and 2001
Summary of a report to NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE (NEJM), Feb 22, 2001
In the third year follow up, the team found 39 prescriptions for lethal doses of medication were filled, a rise from 24 in 1998, and 33 in 1999. 8 of the 39 patients died from their disease, and 5 were still alive as of Dec. 31, 2001.
It is calculated that death by physician-assisted suicide was 6 per 10,000 in 1998 and 9 per 10,000 in 1999 and 9 per 10,000 in year 2000.
In 2000, Oregon physicians wrote 39 prescriptions for lethal doses of medication, as compared with 24 in 1998 and 33 in 1999. Twenty-six of the 39 patients who received prescriptions died after ingesting the medication, 8 died from their underlying disease, and 5 were still alive on December 31, 2000. During 1998 and 1999, 16 and 27 patients, respectively, died after ingesting the medication. One patient who received a prescription in 1999 died in 2000 after ingesting the medication; another patient who received a prescription in 1999 was still alive on December 31, 2000.
The 27 patients who ingested lethal medications in 2000 represent an estimated rate of 9 per 10,000 deaths in Oregon, as compared with a rate of 6 per 10,000 in 1998 and 9 per 10,000 in 1999.
The demographic characteristics of the patients who chose physician-assisted suicide in 2000 resembled those of 6981 Oregon residents who died from similar underlying illnesses in 1999, with a single exception: as their level of education increased, their likelihood of choosing physician-assisted suicide increased. Patients with a college education were more likely to choose physician-assisted suicide than those without a high-school education (odds ratio, 8; 95 percent confidence interval, 2 to 44); patients with post-baccalaureate education were even more likely to choose physician-assisted suicide (odds ratio, 19; 95 percent confidence interval, 4 to 88). The patients in 2000 were demographically similar to those in previous years, except that they were more likely to be married
We interviewed the 22 physicians who had prescribed the lethal medications for the 27 patients who died in 2000. One physician was reported to the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners for submitting an incomplete written-consent form. Physicians were present at 14 of the 27 deaths (52 percent). One patient who regurgitated approximately 10 ml of secobarbital suspension immediately after ingestion became unconscious within one minute after ingestion and died within seven minutes. Physicians continued to report that the patients who chose physician-assisted suicide in 2000 had multiple end-of-life concerns that contributed to the patients' requests for lethal medications.
One significant discovery is noted - that" there was a considerable increase in the number of patients who were concerned about being a burden to family, friends, and other caregivers in 2000 as compared with other years."
SOURCE: The New England Journal of Medicine -- February 22, 2001 -- Vol.
344, No. 8 Legalized Physician-Assisted Suicide in Oregon, 1998-2000
Physician-Assisted Suicide in Oregon -- The Second
In 1997, Oregon
legalized physician-assisted suicide. In 1999, the NEJM reported that
information on 33 persons who received prescriptions for lethal
medications was reported to the Oregon Health Division.
"26 deaths from taking the lethal medications,... while 2 were alive as of
January 1, 2000. One additional patient, who received a prescription in 1998,
died after taking the medication in 1999. Thus, 27 patients died after ingesting
lethal medications in 1999 (9 per 10,000 deaths in Oregon), as compared with 16
patients in 1998 (6 per 10,000)."
In that report the "median age of the 27 patients who died in 1999 after taking lethal medications was 71 years. The most frequent underlying illnesses were cancer (in 17 patients), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (in 4), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (in 4). All 27 patients had health insurance, 21 were receiving hospice care, and 13 were college graduates. According to both physicians and family members, patients requested assistance with suicide for several reasons, including loss of autonomy, loss of control of bodily functions, an inability to participate in activities that make life enjoyable, and a determination to control the manner of death."
1999 was the second year of legalized physician-assisted suicide in Oregon. In this report, "the number of patients who died after ingesting lethal medications increased, but it remained small in relation to the total number of persons in Oregon who died. Patients who request assistance with suicide appear to be motivated by several factors, including loss of autonomy and a determination to control the way in which they die."
Source: The New England Journal of Medicine -- February 24, 2000 -- Vol. 342, No. 8. Legalized Physician-Assisted Suicide in Oregon -- The Second Year
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