PORTLAND, August 23, 2004 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Assisted suicide in the state of Oregon may be put on trial this September if U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft files an appeal with the Supreme Court. In a ruling announced August 16, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a U.S. Justice Department request for a new hearing after the court's May decision to uphold the Oregon doctor-assisted suicide law.
State records say that doctors have helped 171 people commit suicide since the Death With Dignity Act was introduced six years ago. A recently published study contains some alarming statistics. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University interviewed 1,384 family members who had lost a family member between June 2000 and March 2002, and found that 17 percent of dying patients had talked to their family members about assisted suicide. Only 2 percent of dying patients formally request assisted suicide, and about 1 in 1,000 follows through by consuming a lethal dose.
The study also found that the patients most likely to request assisted suicide are cancer-sufferers and tend to be young, white and not particularly religious. The study contradicts earlier survey attempts, which said the tendency to request assisted suicide was higher among the more educated; education actually has little to do with assisted suicide.
The study also throws light on whether or not legalizing assisted suicide actually limits its use. Some argue that actual cases of physician assisted suicide are more frequent in other states, because Oregon's suicide law puts physicians under more scrutiny. The study makes it clear, however, that options are more on people's minds when they are legal options.
"We had no idea prior to our study how many Oregonians personally considered the option," said Dr. Susan Tolle, the study's lead author.