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Oregon Health Authority Releases 2016 Death with Dignity Act Report

February 22, 2017

We welcome the publication of the 19th annual report on the use of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.

On February 21, 2017, the Oregon Health Authority released the 19th annual report on the use of the state’s Death with Dignity Act. The report Oregon Death with Dignity Act: 2016 Data Summary covers the calendar year 2016 thru January 23, 2017, and shows the data collected under the Act in its 19th year of implementation.

In 2016, 102 physicians wrote prescriptions to 204 Oregon residents under the Act, a slight decline over the previous year. Similarly, 133 patients died from ingesting the prescribed medications, including 19 prescription recipients from prior years; 65.2 percent of people who obtained medications died after taking them.

This corresponds to 37.2 Death with Dignity Act deaths per 10,000 total deaths in the state, or 0.37%.

Similar to years past, 80.5 percent of patients who died under the Act were aged 65 years or older; the median age at death was 73 years. Most patients were white (96.2 percent) and well-educated (50 percent had at least a BA). Most patients had cancer (78.9 percent) and ALS (6.8 percent), while the number of patients suffering from heart disease rose from 2 to 6.8 percent year-on-year.

Most patients died at home (88.6 percent) and most (88.7 percent) were enrolled in hospice care. Most patients (99.2 percent) had some form of health care insurance, with the percentage of private insurance policy holders declining by half and the percentage of patients on Medicare/Medicaid increasing from 41.5 to 69.5 percent.

Finally, similar to past years, the three most frequently mentioned end-of-life concerns were loss of autonomy (89.5 percent), decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (89.5 percent), and loss of dignity (65.4 percent).

Nineteen Years of Reporting

Since the Oregon Death with Dignity Act was affirmed in 1997 and implementation began in 1998, a total of 1,749 Oregon residents obtained prescriptions under the Act, of whom 1,127 , or 64.4 percent, have died from ingesting the medications. One out of three patients receiving medications choose not to use them. Deaths under the Act represent less than one half of one percent of all deaths in the state, or fewer than 4 in 1,000.

As every year, the groundbreaking physician-assisted dying law brings peace of mind and relief to Oregonians facing the end of life. These newly released data from Oregon prove the law provides comfort to those facing the end of life while protecting those who are vulnerable. The 2016 annual report thus provides supportive evidence for legislators and individuals in states contemplating enacting a similar law (23 in the 2017 legislative session).


March 7, 2017 at 5:48 pm

This sounds more like, please die so I can move on with my life. I was thankful for every moment I was able to spend with my father who died of cancer. I live in Vermont and regret that my sister is planning on ending her life before she enters a nursing home without considering that I would take care of her and love her for the few years she would have need of others to care for her. I feel like a suicide survivor even before the act has occurred and it is devastating.

Tommie McKinney
March 15, 2017 at 3:04 pm

You have the right to be thankful for every moment up to the death of your dad’s death. However, your sister planning the end of her life is a selfless act and I respect her for that. She should not have to put that decision on the shoulders of her family. When my mom died, we removed her from life support because she was brain dead, I was extremely upset with her and my dad for not planning ahead. I was mortified at picking their caskets and headstones and the cost of funerals. Each person, including me should choose all those things not the ones I love. My daughter is an only child, I would never make her have to decide my fate. She is my baby. I never want to burden her with the thought of how would she take care of me, when she has her own life, husband and child. That to me is very selfish!!

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January 9, 2018 at 4:18 pm

[…] into effect until 1997. In 2016, the most recent year statistics are available, doctors in Oregon prescribed lethal drugs to 204 patients. Slightly under two thirds of this number chose to end their own life. […]

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January 9, 2018 at 5:13 pm

[…] into effect until 1997. In 2016, the most recent year statistics are available, doctors in Oregon prescribed lethal drugs to 204 patients. Slightly under two thirds of this number chose to end their own life. […]

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