PRESS RELEASE - February 6, 2002
Physicians for Compassionate Care
P.O. Box 6042
Portland, Oregon 97228
(503) 533-8154; Fax (503) 533-0429
2001 REPORT ON OREGON ASSISTED-SUICIDE EXPERIMENT
Today, February 6, 2002, the Oregon Health Division (OHD) reported
21 assisted suicides in 2001. Once again, the report gathered information
only from those needing to justify recent participation in a suicide
-- the assisted-suicide doctors themselves. There was no independent
verification of the adequacy of pain care, palliative care, or psychiatric
treatment in any of the cases.
OHD reporting in this area is a travesty. It discredits what was
once a fine public health organization. National medical experts
have observed that those responsible for monitoring the Oregon assisted-sucide
law have become its advocats (Foley & Hendin, Hastings Center
Report May-June, 1999) and biased their data collection. In a new
book, scheduled to be released in March by Johns Hopkins Press, Drs.
Kathleen Foley of Project on Death in America and Herbert Hendin
of New York University have concluded, “Even more troublesome
has been the restrictive manner in which the Oregon Health Division
(OHD), charged with monitoring the law, has interpreted its mandate.” This
restrictive interpretation has resulted in biased data collection,
false assurances, and the failure to disclose known cases of patients
with depression and patients under pressure from their families being
given assisted suicides. Neither has OHD revealed the admitted involvement
of HMOs in assisted suicides. The U.S. Department of Justice submitted
an advance copy of the Foley and Hendin critque of OHD reports to
federal Judge Jones. Advance copies of the book are now available
for press review from Johns Hopkins Press.
What little useful information one can glean from the report all
points to one conclusion, according to Dr. Hamilton, spokesman for
PCC. “Assisted suicide isn't necessary! 99.9% of Oregonians
who died last year did so without assisted suicide. And the other
0.1% could have, too, given the availability of pain treatment and
palliataive care,” Hamilton said.
The predominate concerns that led to the suicides were psychological
fears and social concerns. Only one assisted-suicide victim this
year even mentioned pain care as a possible concern. There is no
evidence that any of the victims was suffering from actual substantial
pain. That’s because doctors can treat pain. No one in America
needs to die in unrelieved pain.
“The psychological and social fears of the assisted suicide
victims all point to low self-esteem and anxiety often associated
with depression,” according to Dr. Hamilton, a Portland psychiatrist. “Medical
studies demonstrate that most patients even inquiring about assisted
suicide suffer from depression, often unrecognized by the doctor.
Yet only 3 of the Oregon assisted-suicide victims were even referred
for a psychiatric opinion! Such neglect of the mental health concerns
of suicidal patients would be considered malpractice in any other
For further information call Dr. Gregory Hamilton at (503) 276-1293
or page him at 816-2224. (2/6/02).