A report out of Oregon, which approved physician assisted suicide for terminally ill patients 11 years ago, says few patients actually use the option -- but like that it's there.
"Over the past 11 years in Oregon, 341 people have used the law, and the lethal medication provided by their doctors, to die."
That works out to about 1 in 1,000 deaths, according to the Oregon Health Division. The rate of talking about assisted suicide, however, is much higher. About 1 in 50 dying patients discuss assisted suicide with their doctors, according to the state, and one in six with their families.
"All this suggests that people just want to know that the escape is there if they need it, but very few decide that they do. It is powerful evidence that palliative care has come a long, long way since the Oregon measure took effect 11 years ago."
The report says palliative care -- health care for the terminally ill -- has done such a good job of making people's final days comfortable, that few patients want to end their lives early.
The Oregon Health Department is required maintain statistics on the law's uptake. The numbers provide an interesting glimpse into who uses such a law, and how. Over the past 11 years, 82 per cent of patients requesting assisted suicide had some form of cancer, and 93 per cent died at home. Top reasons for wanted assisted suicide were a loss of autonomy, a loss of dignity and an inability to still do things they always enjoyed.
Earlier this month, voters in neighbouring Washington state voted to approve a similar assisted suicide law for their state.