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PRESS RELEASE - February 23, 2000

ASSISTED SUICIDE REPORT PLAGUED BY SHORTCOMINGS

The Oregon Health Division (OHD) report on 27 assisted suicide deaths in 1999 is plagued by shortcomings, according to PCC president, Dr. Hamilton. It uses statistics to minimize the importance of a human tragedy. OHD only gathered information from those needing to justify recent collusion in a suicide. No objective information was sought. The report did not reveal known problems:

--Assisted suicide symptoms were so troubling 911 was called and a patient resuscitated. Details of this suppressed case will be released in a copyrighted article (Brainstorm 3/00).

--Kate Cheney was demented and under pressure from her family, described as "coercive." A psychiatrist found her ineligible for assisted suicide, so the family and the suicide doctor got yet another opinion. That opinion also admitted Cheney could not even remember when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Yet, she was given assisted suicide by Kaiser HMO, which has a profit sharing plan for doctors (Oregonian 10/17/99, Brainstorm 11/99).

--Patrick Matheny's death was complicated by swallowing problems, prompting Deputy Attorney General David Schuman to lay groundwork for lethal injection. He declared the Americans with Disabilities Act could be used to demand equal access to assisted suicide for those who cannot swallow the many pills required for assisted suicide (Oregonian 3/14/99).

Instead of showing compassion about such tragic cases, activist Coombs Lee coldly dismissed assisted suicide deaths in Oregon as "statistically insignificant" (Oregonian 2/7/00).

OHD ignores the managed care climate in Oregon and overreaches its data by concluding there were no economic pressures. Qual Med HMO has been reported to fund assisted suicide while capping in-home palliative care (hospice) at a meager $1,000. Oregon's governor admitted "only three states spend less per person on health care for the poor" (Oregonian 12/3/99), yet the Oregon Health Plan fully funds assisted suicide for the poor and denies payment for 171 services.

If OHD wanted a meaningful report on assisted suicide, it would give independent researchers full medical records with identifying data blanked out. It would do prospective studies including objective opinions about the adequacy of pain care and treatment of depression, not a series of pro forma consultations orchestrated by assisted suicide activists. Instead, OHD denied all requests by independent researchers for access to information about assisted suicide cases.

OHD's report provides no useful information about the economics of assisted suicide, no independent assessment of the adequacy of pain care, no comment on failure to protect the mentally ill, no mention of known failed cases, and no reference to ushering in lethal injection. It's reassuring conclusions are unwarranted. It is plagued with shortcomings.

For further information call:
Dr. Gregory Hamilton at PCC (503) 533-8154.
Released February 23, 2000.

Physicians for Compassionate Care
P.O. Box 6042
Portland, Oregon 97228
(503) 533-8154; Fax (503) 533-0429;
www.pccef.org

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Physicians for Compassionate Care Educational Foundation