Thursday, March 22, 2007

Oregon DWD 2006 Report;

Oregon has released the 2006 annual report on the Death With Dignity Act. If you are not familiar with this report, the Department of Human Services reviews important data collected from physicians about how the physician-assisted suicide/death law is enacted. Particularly they collect demographics about the patients who receive prescriptions and track how the patients die (natural causes vs. taking the prescribed dose of barbiturate).

During 2006, 65 prescriptions for lethal medications under the provisions of the
DWDA were written (figure 1). Of these, 35 patients took the medications, 19 died
of their underlying disease, and 11 were alive at the end of 2006. In addition, 11
patients with earlier prescriptions died from taking the medications, resulting in a
total of 46 DWDA deaths during 2006. This corresponds to an estimated 14.7
DWDA deaths per 10,000 total deaths.
Most of the patients had cancer and almost all of the 46 were insured, and many had a higher education (BA/BS). Of note, 4 people had complications which included regurgitation.

As in past years the requests mainly had a foundation in issues surrounding autonomy, being a burden and loss of dignity/independence, which are things that do not have a successful medication available like for depression, anxiety and pain. Issues of autonomy and dignity are deeply rooted and require much attention and human capital to make sure they are protected.
As many who work with patients near the end of life, requests for hastened death are not uncommon, and require a delicate and compassionate response that is in line with your state laws, but at the same time does not abandon the patient when they most may need support and care. Check out the two-page report (4 minutes of reading tops) and some of the other files on the website.

And for homework, I have a question from a medical student that I could not answer. maybe Pallimed readers could help me.

If a person dies by physician-assisted suicide, can the family still collect on the insurance policy, or was that even considered when the law was legislated?

(BTW this question was not offered to me with a focus on greed/money/etc., but rather in discussing the systems issue of even considering something like PAS in the first place and how the practice may have repercussion outside of the immediate medical situation)

(My Standard Disclaimer: Dr. Sinclair and his current and former employers and states do not endorse or practice euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, but do encourage the open, non-judgmental discussion of these topics for educational and ethical discourse about this controversial area of medicine.)

Picture from, user SeamusMurray

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