Feed on
Two weeks ago the leader of the right to life movement in Oregon attacked in the Register-Guard (Eugene) the Oregon Death With Dignity Act, which permits physician-assisted suicide, on the grounds that in 2007 not a single patient who wanted a hastened death had been sent for psychological evaluation. The law says this must be done if the two approving doctors detect clinical depression.

These two letters appeared in response in the paper dated 10 April 2008:_

Life-ending decision is personal

After reading Gayle Atteberry’s guest viewpoint on Oregon’s physician assisted suicide act (Register-Guard, March 28), her last sentence — “The facts are now conclusive: Oregon’s assisted suicide experiment has failed the very patients it was intended to serve” — seems to me to be the rantings of a frustrated ideologue.

You’ll notice through the entire column, no actual numbers of assisted deaths were mentioned. That’s because there were fewer than 50 for the state’s entire population in 2006.

Throughout the column, she kept mentioning that these people were never referred to a psychiatrist for depression. Why on earth would someone close to death, dying of an excruciatingly painful disease, want to see a psychiatrist for depression?

There is no mention in the column of the reasons these unfortunate people wanted to end their lives. I’m sure no physician in his right mind would help patients to kill themselves simply because they’re depressed.

I do not like people sticking their noses into my personal business. It’s my body and my life, and I should be free to do with it what I please so long as no one else is affected adversely.

Who was it who said: “The people I fear the most are those who have my best interests at heart.”

John DeLeau, Springfield

Doctors heed Dignity Act rules

Gayle Atteberry’s March 28 guest viewpoint was an uncalled-for swipe at those caring doctors who have helped dying patients seeking release from their suffering. They followed the Oregon Death With Dignity Act, its rules and its strictures, and reported all to the proper authorities.

But Atteberry and her colleagues accuse them of not sending any of these patients to a shrink beforehand. The law says nobody with existing clinical depression may be helped to die. The religious right always has maintained that everybody accelerating their end must be out of their minds, that rational suicide does not exist.

There are reasons why none, or few, patients are sent for mental health checkups. First, those Oregon doctors (47 in 2007) who cooperate with this law have become more experienced with assessing a patient who is asking for help to die. When the law became operational in 1998, it was a fresh branch of medicine.

Also, we don’t know how many patients are turned down immediately — that is not required to be recorded and it would be intrusive of personal and medical privacy to try to find out.

Of the patients who are given help to die, 88 percent are enrolled in hospice and have been under medical care for a considerable time. Therefore, the family and medical staff would have noticed serious depression or other mental health problems.

Because of the unique Oregon law, hospice admissions in this state are three times the national average, something of which we can be proud.

Derek Humphry, Junction City
(author of ‘Final Exit’)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.