Physician Assisted Suicide in Oregon

March 12, 1999

Physician assisted suicide in Oregon has been legal for more than a year, and a recent report on its effectiveness should cause Americans to reconsider the push for legalized euthanasia. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine purports to shed light on the law's actual workings. But a close reading of the study is a major cause for concern.

Fifteen people in Oregon legally committed suicide according to the report. Now before we go on, let me just say that I suspect the number is much, much higher. These merely represent the few cases that were reported.

Anyway, we are told in the report that not one of the fifteen people committed suicide because of intractable pain or suffering (the reason usually given for legalized euthanasia). Each of those who died had a strong personal belief in individual autonomy and chose suicide on fears of future dependence.

The study also reported that those who committed suicide had shorter relationships with the doctors than a control group. One woman had a 2-week relationship with a doctor who wrote her a lethal prescription. Her own doctor refused to assist her suicide, as had a second doctor who diagnosed her with depression. So she went to an advocacy group which referred her to a doctor willing to do the deed.

Proponents of physician assisted suicide argued for legalization to help those with intractable pain. Yet that is not what has happened. Proponents also argued the assisted suicide would only occur after a long discussion of the issues with doctors who had long-term relationships. That hasn't happened either. Some patients appear to be shopping for suicide doctors. So if this latest report is supposed to give legalized euthanasia a clean bill of health, I think they need to go back and get a second opinion.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.