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Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act Report 2016

Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act (DWDA) allows terminally-ill adult Oregonians to obtain and use prescriptions from their physicians for self-administered, lethal doses of medications. Every year, the Oregon Public Health Division collects compliance information and issues a report. February 10th 2017, the data summary for 2016 was published.


During 2016, 204 people received a prescription for lethal medication under the provisions of the Oregon DWDA, compared to 218 during 2015. Of the 204 patients for whom prescriptions were written during 2016, 114 (55.9%) ingested the medication and died without regaining consciousness while 36 (17.6%) did not take the medication and subsequently died of other causes.


As of January 23, 2017, the Oregon Public Health Division had received reports of 133 people who had died during 2016 from ingesting the medication prescribed under DWDA, compared to 135 during 2015. These 133 people include 19 prescription recipients from prior years. Of the 133 DWDA deaths during 2016, most patients (80.5%) were aged 65 years or older.


Patients’ underlying illnesses were similar to those of previous years. Most patients had cancer (78.9%), followed by ALS (6.8%). The three most frequently mentioned end-of-life concerns were loss of autonomy (89.5%), decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (89.5%), and loss of dignity (65.4%). This is similar to previous years.


A total of 102 physicians wrote 204 prescriptions during 2016. During 2016, no referrals were made to the Oregon Medical Board for failure to comply with DWDA requirements.


Since the law was passed in 1997, a total of 1,749 people have had prescriptions written under the DWDA, and 1,127 patients have died from ingesting the medication. During 2016, the rate of DWDA deaths was 37.2 per 10,000 total deaths.


The full report (English) can be found here.