Saturday, October 18, 2008

Assisted Suicide in Oregon: Wrong Again

In another study under-reported by the media, because it cuts against assisted suicide, UK researchers found that about a quarter of assisted suicide requests in Oregon were depressed, and yet received lethal prescriptions. From the story:
Now a new study shows one-in-four patients who requested lethal drugs under the Oregon law were depressed. Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports on a study conducted by researchers at Oregon Health and Science University. The study--published in the British Medical Journal --followed 58 patients in Oregon who requested aid in dying. Most were terminally ill with cancer or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Of the 58, twenty-six percent were independently diagnosed with depression. Psychiatrist Linda Ganzini is the study's lead author. She says doctors need to do a better job of screening for depression before they write a lethal prescription.
Oh please, Dr. Ganzini: the guidelines are not actually there to protect the vulnerable, but merely to give the appearance of control. And if one doctor says no, the patient just goes doctor shopping until one is found who will prescribe--usually referred by Compassion and Choices. So, there is no protection of depressed patients in Oregon, and none is really intended.

Beyond that, the guidelines in Oregon and Washington do not require actual treatment of the depressed before a prescription is issued. Indeed, the attitude of Dutch euthanasia supporters demonstrate that even if depression is detected, it really doesn't matter in making the killing decision. From a story in the New Scientist:
Although the authors acknowledge that most patients who request aid in dying do not have a depressive disorder they point out that "the current practice of Death with Dignity Act may not adequately protect all mentally ill patients" and call for "increased vigilance and systematic examination for depression among patients who may access legalised aid in dying."

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Marije van der Lee from the Helen Dowling Institute in the Netherlands, says that while it is vital to protect vulnerable patients, examining terminally ill patients to determine if depression is impairing their judgement is complex. She believes that depression does not necessarily impair judgement and says that in the Netherlands what is most important is that the patient makes an informed decision. She concludes: "we should focus on trying to 'protect' patients from becoming depressed in the first place, rather than focus on protecting patients from assisted suicide."
Of course. When doctors and mental health professionals abandon depressed patients to death, who will protect them?

Oh yes: Last year zero patients requesting assisted suicide in Oregon were referred to mental health professionals.

By the way: what are some relevant professional opinions about Assisted suicide and/or initiative 1000? See here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here . . .

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