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
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
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;
Affirming an Ethic that All Human Life is Inherently