According to the report, there was a small increase in the number of requests for assisted suicide in 2021 compared to 2020. That is good news considering there was a 25% jump from the years 2019 to 2020.
Lois Anderson, who leads Oregon Right to Life, says the lack of a big jump is a positive sign but one lingering concern, he tells AFN, is the number of weeks a terminal patient has with the family physician. More than half of doctors who wrote a patient a lethal prescription knew that person for only five weeks before signing away their death.
“I think anybody that's tried to get an appointment with a physician in the past year knows that a five-week relationship with a physician is a very short period of time,” Anderson observes, “and it probably means only one appointment.”
Another concern is that out of 383 people asking to kill themselves only two were referred for psychiatric evaluation when so many say they want to die because of depression, which can be readily treated in most patients.
Among other statistics, 79% of patients were on Medicare or Medicaid insurance, and Anderson says that raises another red flag about the cost of medicine.
“We know that there's going to be – in addition to just the pressures of perhaps having a diagnosis of a terminal illness – perhaps feeling like you don't want to be a burden on your family,” Anderson says, “which is something that's noted as a reason people give that they ask for these prescriptions, but also financial pressure.”
Anderson and ORTL reviewed the 2021 figures and also saw that one physician alone wrote 47 lethal prescriptions. In all, 133 doctors wrote a lethal prescription and 102 of them signed only one or two in the course of a year.