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Assisted suicide numbers highest ever as Oregon sees 32% increase in a single year

The state of Oregon had the highest number of assisted suicides in 2023 since the practice began in 1998.

The latest annual assisted suicide report ‘Oregon Death with Dignity Act: 2023 Data Summary’, released last month, has revealed a total of 367 people ended their lives by assisted suicide in 2023 in Oregon. This figure represents a 32% increase in deaths by assisted suicide from 278 in the previous year.

Among the end-of-life concerns listed by those who ended their lives, almost half (43.3%) of those who ended their lives reported being concerned about being a “[b]urden on family, friends/caregivers”, and 8.2% said they were concerned about the “[f]inancial implications of treatment”. 

88.3% said they were concerned about reduced ability “to engage in activities making life enjoyable”, 91.6% mentioned concerns about “losing autonomy”, and 63.8% of those who ended their lives in this way, said they were concerned about loss of dignity.

Only three psychiatric evaluations

As in 2022, the report further reveals that only “[t]hree patients were referred for psychological or psychiatric evaluation”. In cases where the data was available, people who ended their lives by assisted suicide took anywhere between 3 minutes and 137 hours to die after ingesting the suicide drug.

In 265 cases out of the total 367 cases, there is no information available about complications that might have arisen after ingesting the lethal drugs. Such information is only recorded if a medical professional is present at the time of death.

There have been a total of 2,847 deaths by assisted suicide in Oregon since 1998.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said “The number of assisted suicides in Oregon continues to increase and shows no signs of abating. One of the most shocking aspects of the data from Oregon is that the end-of-life concerns for those who ended their lives by assisted suicide are generally not medical. Autonomy, dignity and activities that make life enjoyable are all issues that are not treated by death. Sadly, nearly half report concerns about being a burden on family and friends. The focus must be on palliative care and not on helping these vulnerable adults to end their lives”.

“Equally shocking is the apparent lack of medical oversight as less than 1% of those who took their own lives underwent a psychiatric evaluation and in the majority of cases, no medical professional was present at the time of death. What exactly happened, how long it took, and whether there were complications are largely unknown. The potential for abuse and coercion here is very real and should be deeply alarming to other countries, such as our own, who are considering introducing assisted suicide”.

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