Study: Oregon assisted-dying law being used but needs improvements

When Oregon put its physician-assisted suicide program in place almost 20 years ago, most people had no tangible idea how it would be used.

But a new study shows  that it has been successful in its goal of allowing people to die with dignity.

The numbers show that from 1998 to 2013,  there was a 12 percent annual increase in prescriptions for the lethal medications used in the procedure. There was also an odd bump to 30 percent in 2015 as yet unexplained.

The leader of the study, Oregon Health & Science University oncologist Dr. Charles Blanke suggested that the strong interest has to do with more patients and doctors becoming aware of the law in their and other states.

The study did uncover some problems, however, specifically to do with the amount of pain patients experience during the procedure. Dr. Blanke found that the 25 percent experiencing that pain could indicate some patients are choosing to end their life as a way of making the pain stop. More disturbingly, he lamented the statistic suggesting that 3 percent chose death due to the high costs of chemotherapy.

There’s more and I suggest you read the rest of the article but the study’s revelation about why people are ending their lives is startling.

Having a dying-with-dignity law in place is a humane way of allowing people to manage the final days of their life without the spectre of being kept in a coma until their organs finally shut down.

To have such mundane issues as the cost of pain and chemotherapy medications, to name but two, be the deciding factor in such an important decision undermines the intent of the law. More must be done to ensure that terminally ill patients accessing such a law be supported in more tangible – ie: medication – ways in the final stages of their lives.