Assisted Suicide Laws in Oregon and Washington: What Safeguards?

Update: Oregon & Washington Suicide Study A suicide study, published in the Southern Medical Journal, found an increase (6.3%) in total suicides, with a larger increase (14.5%) among individuals 65 or older, in Oregon and Washington after doctor-assisted suicide was legalized. Moreover, there was no decrease in non-assisted suicides, even for those over 65. The findings counter claims by prescribed-suicide advocates that legalizing the practice reduces the overall number of non-assisted suicides. Instead, according to the researchers, the introduction of doctor-assisted suicide “seemingly induces more self-inflicted deaths than it inhibits.” [Jones & Paton, “How Does Legalization of Physician-Assisted Suicide Affect Rates of Suicide?” Southern Medical Journal, 10/15, pp. 599-604] In a commentary that accompanied the study, Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, a psychiatry professor at the University of California-Irvine School of Medicine, wrote that the study’s findings point to a phenomenon called suicide contagion, when one suicide generates other copycat suicides. He suggests that the media attention given to doctor-prescribed suicides can encourage copycat suicides particularly for vulnerable individuals. Dr. Kheriaty described the widely-publicized assisted suicide of Brittany Maynard, the young, attractive newlywed with brain cancer who moved to Oregon to end her life using doctor-prescribed lethal drugs, as a case that could easily encourage copycat behavior. But suicides don’t need to be publicized to be “contagious,” Kheriaty wrote. “[R]esearch suggests that behaviors like suicide, whether assisted or nonassisted, influence the behaviors of not only one’s friends but also of one’s friends’ friends’ friends.” [Southern Medical Journal, 10/15, pp 605-606] [ http://www.patientsrightscouncil.org/site/update-078-volume-29-number-4-2015-4/ ]   Assisted Suicide Laws in Oregon and Washington: What Safeguards?  (17 Aug 2015) [Comment: This factual analysis should...