Ashland News – Community-Supported, NonProfit News reports a 30% increase in Death with Dignity Act deaths across Southern Oregon, with Jackson County experiencing a 22% rise.

In 2023, the number of Southern Oregonians who were diagnosed with terminal illnesses and chose to end their lives by taking a doctor-prescribed combination of lethal drugs increased by six cases. This represents a significant 30% rise compared to the previous year.

In 2023, a significant number of Southern Oregon residents, primarily from Jackson County, lost their lives through medical aid in dying. It is worth noting that the Death with Dignity Act, passed by Oregon voters in 1997, was the pioneering legislation of its kind in the country, initially referred to as “physician-assisted suicide.”

The Oregon Health Authority’s annual report, released on March 20, revealed that Southern Oregon residents experienced 26 medication-assisted deaths. Southern Oregon includes Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Coos, Curry, Douglas, and Lake counties. Among these deaths, the report emphasizes that 22 individuals were from Jackson County.

In 2023, Jackson County recorded 22 deaths, which is four more than the previous year. This represents a 22.2% increase, surpassing the statewide increase of 20.7% compared to the previous year.

According to the report, the number of medically assisted deaths in Oregon increased to 367 in 2023. This is a significant increase of 63 deaths compared to the previous year, making it the highest number of medically assisted deaths since the law was implemented in 1998. Out of these deaths, 337 individuals ingested the prescribed lethal medication in the same year, while the remaining 30 individuals used life-ending prescriptions that were written in previous years. This data was reported by the Health Authority.

According to the OHA’s website on the law, medication aid in dying is restricted to patients who are 18 years old or older, capable of making and expressing their own healthcare choices, and diagnosed by a doctor with a terminal illness that will result in their demise within six months.

In Oregon, the law regarding euthanasia is different compared to other places. Unlike euthanasia, which is illegal in the state, the doctor does not directly administer the lethal medication to the patient. Instead, the doctor prescribes a lethal cocktail of medications for the patient to choose whether or not to consume.

Patients have the option to voluntarily participate in Death with Dignity, and doctors are not obligated to provide them with a prescription.

In 2023, a total of 167 doctors across Oregon wrote lethal prescriptions. Out of these, 26 doctors were located in Southern Oregon, while the Portland metropolitan area (including Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties) had 85 doctors who participated in this practice. Additionally, there were 42 doctors in northwest Oregon outside of the Portland metro area, eight doctors in Central Oregon and the Columbia Gorge area, and six doctors in Eastern Oregon.

In 2023, doctors issued a total of 560 prescriptions. As stated in the state report, 82 individuals who were prescribed the medication did not take it and passed away due to other causes. The ingestion status of 141 patients remains unknown, with 41 of them deceased and their ingestion status still uncertain. Additionally, as of January 26th of this year, the deaths and ingestion status of 100 patients were still pending.

According to the report, seniors aged 65 or older accounted for 82% of Death with Dignity patients. The report also highlights the most prevalent terminal diagnoses, which include cancer (66%), neurological disease (11%), heart disease (10%), and respiratory diseases like COPD (7%).

According to the report, out of the total 367 deaths recorded last year, 322 took place in the patient’s own home. Additionally, 21 deaths occurred in assisted living or foster care facilities, seven in hospice facilities, three in hospitals, and two in skilled nursing homes. The remaining 12 deaths were reported in other locations.

Between 1998 and 2023, Oregon witnessed a total of 2,847 cases of medically assisted deaths. Out of these, 209 individuals were residents of Southern Oregon, with an additional 185 specified as residents of Jackson County.

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MBS Staff
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