New Report from Oregon Shows Dangers of PAS

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trigger warning

A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association included some disturbing findings on the realities of physician-assisted suicide (PAS), or physician-aided dying (PAD) as it’s referred to in the report, in the state over the past 18 years since it was legalized. The study reviewed publicly available data from Oregon Health Authority reports from 1998 to 2015. According to Oregon Live, from 1998 to 2013, there was a 12 percent yearly increase in prescriptions written, as well as an unexplained jump of nearly 30 percent in 2015.

One of the biggest concerns of the study is that 25% of those who chose PAS did so because of pain. This is unacceptable – particularly because palliative care and hospice care is available to all patients with a terminal illness, providing  pain relief and symptom management – all of which are paid for by Medicare/Medicaid and almost all private insurance plans.

Another dangerous fact from the report, as noted by Oregon Live, is that 3% of patients who chose PAS did so because the cost of chemotherapy was too high. In states like Oregon, both private and public insurance cover the cost of assisted suicide drugs. This increases pressure on insurance companies and the state to offer PAS instead of life saving treatments that are likely much more expensive. In fact, the cost saving potential has already been noted in Maryland. In the fiscal note prepared for the 2016 Maryland legislation, they implicitly argue this bill may save the state money: “The Medicaid program may realize savings to the extent a qualified individual dies sooner than would otherwise occur.”

According to the report:

The most common reasons cited for desiring PAD were activities of daily living were not enjoyable (89.7%) and losses of autonomy (91.6%) and dignity (78.7%); inadequate pain control contributed in 25.2% of cases.

One of the main reasons why every nationwide disability group is opposed to PAS is based on similar studies that have shown proponents characterizing a disability as a loss of dignity and autonomy. Disability groups and advocates make the point that most people with terminal illness at one point will become disabled. This systemic discrimination raises concerns for people with disabilities when it comes to the legalization of physician-assisted suicide (PAS), and from this report we can see that a loss of dignity and autonomy are cited as the top reasons for choosing PAS.

It’s been eighteen years since PAS was legalized in Oregon and we can see that the data confirms what we believe to be true:  PAS is a dangerous practice that is certainly not right for Maryland.

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