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New Oregon assisted suicide figures are a warning to the UK

more: Press Releases

26th March 2024

“Data from the handful of places that have changed the law serve as a stark warning to UK parliamentarians.”

Date: Monday 25th March 2024

Release time: Embargoed until 00.01 Tuesday 26th March 2024

New Oregon assisted suicide figures are a warning to the UK

The latest assisted suicide figures for the US state of Oregon are a warning to UK parliamentarians considering changing the law, says campaign group, ahead of the publication of a draft bill at Holyrood later this week.

The group, Care Not Killing, has today published an analysis of the data covering 2023, which shows a big jump in the number of people applying for a so-called assisted death 560, compared with 433 in 2022.

Chillingly, fears of being burden (43.3 per cent) and financial worries about the cost of treatments (8.2 per cent) continued to be cited by significant numbers of those applying for the lethal cocktail of barbiturates. By comparison, concerns about pain control were cited by one three (34.3 per cent).

Other figures dispel the idea of a "Hollywood death", where those taking the drugs simply slip away peacefully. Of those whose death was witnessed, people reported difficulty ingesting the drugs, regurgitation and even seizures. While time taken to die ranged from 3 minutes to 137 hours, or more than five and half days.

Dr Gordon Macdonald, CEO of Care Not Killing, commented:

"These figures should act as a stark warning to those parliamentarians in the UK who are looking at changing the law. They dispel the idea of a Hollywood death, while showing that a majority of those who are ending their lives, fear becoming a burden on their families, carers or finances."

The analysis also highlights the further erosion of safeguards, with less than one person in every 100 (0.8 per cent) being referred for a psychiatric assessment, while around one in 20 outlived the six-month prognosis.

Dr Gordon Macdonald, continued:

"There are other problems with Oregon's assisted suicide system. A study by the Anscombe Institute suggests that legalising state sanctioned killing normalises suicide in the general population, finding an increase of 6.3 per cent in the numbers of suicides, once all other factors had been controlled. Among over 65s the figure was more than double that. Academics are seeing this trend in other places that have legalised either assisted suicide or euthanasia. We are not 100 per cent certain why this occurs, but one theory suggests that when the state determines that some lives are not worth living or extending this normalises suicide in the general population."

Care Not Killing has also previously highlighted the troubling data from Canada, where in 2022, 1,700, mainly elderly people who were euthanised by the state, cited loneliness as a factor, while at the same time evidence emerged of disabled veterans, including at least one former Paralympian who wanted adaptions to their homes so they could get around more easily, being denied these, but offered an assisted death.

While in Belgium and the Netherlands a system designed for terminally ill mentally competent adults has been extended to children, disabled people, those with mental health problems, even those who have not given their consent."

Dr Macdonald concluded:

"Data from the handful of places that have changed the law serve as a stark warning to UK parliamentarians and why we believe they should focus on resolving the widespread discrimination against the elderly and disabled people, along with a crisis in the NHS and the care system."


Editors Notes

Care Not Killing is a UK-based alliance bringing together human rights and disability rights organisations, health care and palliative care groups, faith-based organisations groups, and thousands of concerned individuals.

We have three key aims:

  1. to promote more and better palliative care;
  2. to ensure that existing laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide are not weakened or repealed;
  3. to inform public opinion further against any weakening of the law.

*As this story is dealing with suicide, please could we ask that you include details about organisations that offer help and support to vulnerable people who might be feeling suicidal such as the Samaritans, CALM or similar - Thank you.*


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