Inquiries Increase After Two Doctor-Assisted Deaths Advocates Report More Calls About Oregon Law

SUNDAY, MARCH 29, 1998

The deaths of two people who killed themselves under Oregon’s doctor-assisted suicide law have prompted more people to seek information about the procedure, advocates say.

“We certainly have gotten a number of phone calls from individuals, not all of whom are terminally ill,” Judith Fleming, consulting director of Compassion in Dying, told The Statesman Journal.

Jean Simpson, a 65-year-old woman from McMinnville whose husband died of emphysema 12 years ago, was among those who wanted information about how Oregon’s law works.

Simpson, who was diagnosed with emphysema last fall, said she doesn’t want to die slowly like her husband.

“I don’t want to suffer; I’m not looking forward to that,” she said Friday.

Compassion in Dying is sending callers information about the law and how to bring the subject up with a physician.

“People just want to know how they can find out if their physician supports their values,” Fleming said. “All of a sudden, people are aware that this is a health-care value they need to be able to talk about with their physician.”

Compassion in Dying played a key role in the first doctor-assisted suicides in Oregon Tuesday.

On Wednesday the group acknowledged it had found a doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of pills for a grandmother stricken with breast cancer. The woman had less than six months to live, a requirement of the Death With Dignity Act.

The news prompted another person to confirm that a family member, also with terminal cancer, had committed suicide with a doctor’s prescription earlier.

Both were from the Portland area and died at home, with family members in attendance.

The state health division will issue an annual report with information on how many lethal prescriptions were written and how often the medication was used.

Officials will not confirm assisted suicides as they occur.

Tags: euthanasia

Click here to comment on this story »