“The Facts Remain” Series: Suicide Contagion

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We are going to consistently remind our readers of the flaws in legalizing physician assisted suicide.  Of the many faults, some rise up as elemental to any and every legislative effort to make this policy a reality.  Each of these facts leads us to believe that this policy is fundamentally flawed.

This is our series “The Facts Remain”.  This installment covers suicide contagion.

We would like to reiterate the deeply troubling proof of a connection between physician assisted suicide and overall suicide rate increase.  We have pointed out some startling and simple numbers to wrap your head around, and we will do so again here: Oregon’s suicides among adults, excluding the physician assisted procedures, rose by 49 percent from 1999-2010, a rate over 20 percent higher than the national rise of 28 percent.  That is jarring on its own, but the depth of the data is what cements this concern.

An impactful study on this question, from the well-regarded Southern Medical Journal, shows the link between assisted suicide and an uptick in the suicide rate overall.  The study was recently released and states unequivocally that legalizing assisted suicide has been “associated with an increased rate of total suicides relative to other states.” Not only that, but it refutes proponents’ claims that non-assisted suicides will decrease if assisted suicide is made legal.

So we are learning that strong scientific research backs up the “contagion” effect’s tragic contribution to some of the suicides that take place each year.  In places like Oregon, with assisted suicide that is legally sanctioned, the potential impact on lives lost is not worth taking.

While the data backing this point up is concerning, the anecdotal evidence is equally gripping and fills in the full picture of our worry about how this policy fundamentally impacts suicide.

A few months ago, on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” they explored the tragic crisis of suicides at high schools in California’s Silicon Valley.  The audio and transcript of NPR’s report can be found here, and we think it’s an important reminder for our debate here in Maryland.

The report was covering a story in the forthcoming December 2015 issue of The Atlantic magazine, and that is a longer read on the broader sociological implications which we still highly recommend.

As more and more stories like this are shared, we hope that lawmakers considering legalization of assisted suicide listen closely to the NPR interview and read the piece from The Atlantic.  The battle against suicide is real, ongoing, and tragically does not appear to show an opportunity for victory anytime soon.  Considering anything that could exacerbate that problem would automatically negate whatever benefits the proponents could possibly imagine.

Legislators frequently ask whether or not legalizing assisted suicide will lead to an increase in total suicides statewide. Proponents will not hesitate to tell us that there is no correlation between legal assisted suicide and increased suicide rates.

Now we know that’s not true.

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