2009 Summary of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act
The Oregon Public Health Division (March 2010)
Report Finds 36 Died Under Assisted Suicide Law
William Yardley, The New York Times (March 04, 2010)
Earlier this month, the state of Oregon published its annual report on who used the 1997 Death with Dignity Act. I have discussed the ins and outs of the Oregon law before but I want to highlight the following sections of the 2009 report:
• As in prior years, most participants were between 55 and 84 years of age (78.0%), white (98.3%), well-educated (48.3% had at least a baccalaureate degree), and had cancer (79.7%). Patients who died in 2009 were slightly older (median age 76 years) than in previous years (median age 70 years).
• Most patients died at home (98.3%); and most were enrolled in hospice care (91.5%) at time of death.
• In 2009, 98.7% of patients had some form of health care insurance. Compared to previous years, the number of patients who had private insurance (84.7%) was much greater than in previous years (66.8%), and the number of patients who had only Medicare or Medicaid insurance was much less (13.6% compared to 32.0%).
What is really important to note about the individuals using the Oregon law is their age, ethnicity, access to hospice care, and health insurance status. In a nutshell, the vast majority of the individuals were in the middle to upper middle social classes and hardly the lowest rung of Oregonians. This is important to point out because it demonstrates that this particular Assisted Dying law is not killing off the weak, the poor, and the uneducated.
In short, the law is not being abused.