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The 2005 annual report of ‘Compassion and Choices of Oregon’ reports the following interesting details. This Oregon organization is the nonprofit group that acts as the steward of the unique Death With Dignity Act (1994) which permits physician-assisted suicide under certain conditions. (Oregon is the only USA state which allows this.) When the report refers to ‘medication’ it usually means nine grams of Seconal which is consumed orally.

Annual Report:

We served more than 135 clients during the year, 116 of whom died peacefully and humanely in great part because of our volunteers’ compassionate support.

Of the 116 who died in 2005, 25 chose to hasten their deaths by taking medication prescribed under Oregon’s aid-in-dying law and 10 died after voluntarily stopping eating and drinking.

In 2005 we also helped prevent 7 violent suicides from occurring (clients who expressed the intent to take their lives by violent means and had the means to do so, but changed their minds after working with our volunteers.

We helped more than two dozen of our clients and others receive better pain management, referred 35 clients to hospice care, referred others to religious/spiritual counselors, and mailed or emailed more than 400 packets and brochures to people who wanted information about our law.

Of the 25 Compassion clients who hastened their death in 2005, eleven were women. 22 had cancer; 2 had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and one had a severe heart disease.

Twenty four had family members present when they took the medication; 11 also had friends present; 13 had a Compassion client support volunteer present; 11 had their physician present, and 5 had a hospice person with them.

Twenty two of our clients were Caucasian and one each were Asian, Latino and Native-American. 18 had some collect or post-graduate education. The youngest client was 42 years of age and the oldest 88.


All of Compassion’s clients who died after taking medication died peacefully. One person who took the medication did not die. He awakened 65 hours later, fully alert and upset that he had not died as expected. He died of his underlying illness 15 days later.

This was the first case in eight years out of more than 240 cases where someone awakened after taking the medication: a .004 percent occurrence. The cause was not confirmed but experts attribute it to the patient taking a strong laxative prior to consuming all of the Seconal.

No one experienced a seizure; a couple of people slightly regurgitated, and no one died alone.

The primary reasons for interest in having Oregon’s law as an option were fear of loss of control over their life, dependence on others for care, and concern of loss of autonomy. All held a long time belief in the right to choose death with dignity. 22 of the 25 of our clients who took the medication to hasten their death were in hospice care when they took the medication.

Of the 116 of our clients who died in 2005, 95 self identified as being
religious or spiritual, 51 identified as being Republican, and 50
self-identified as being democrats. All but one had health insurance at
their death.

Source: Compassion in Dying of Oregon 2005 annual report.

Address: PO Box 6404, Portland, OR 97228, USA.

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