Washington State Releases 2014 Death with Dignity Report

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The Washington State Department of Health yesterday released the 2014 annual report on the implementation of the Washington Death with Dignity Act. The figures underscore not only that only a small number of people use the law, but also that the Washington Death with Dignity Act continues to work flawlessly and provides ease of mind and relief to Washingtonians facing the end of life.

In 2014, 176 terminally ill Washington residents received a prescription under the Act to help hasten their death. This is a 2% increase over the previous year. Of patients with the prescription, 170 are known to have died: 126 after ingesting the medication and the rest either let the disease take its course or their status is unknown. Since 2008, when the Act went into effect, “725 adults with terminal illness have chosen to end their lives with a physician-prescribed lethal dose of medication,” according to the report.

Fifty-seven percent of participants in the Washington Death with Dignity Act were women. Ages ranged from 21 to 101 years. A vast majority, 92 percent, were Caucasian, and 75 percent had at least some post-secondary education.

Cancer was the underlying illness for 3 out of 4 participants, ALS contributed with 13 percent. Ninety-three percent of patients had some form of insurance.

The three chief end-of-life concerns for the Death with Dignity Act participants who have died were losing the ability to engage in activities that make life enjoyable, losing autonomy, and losing dignity. Ninety-two percent of patients died at home, five in a long-term care facility. Ninety-six percent of patients experienced no complications after ingesting the medication.

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Oregon Health Authority Releases 2014 Death with Dignity Report

Oregon Health Authority, the state agency that oversees the implementation of and compliance with the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, has just released the 2014 Annual Report.

A total of 155 terminally-ill adult Oregonians received a prescription for medications under the provisions of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act in 2014, while 105 of them (67.7%) ingested the medications to die peacefully. This corresponds to 31 Death with Dignity Act (DWDA) deaths per 10,000 total deaths, or 0.3%.

Other highlights from the 2014 Annual Report:

  • Of the 105 DWDA deaths during 2014, most (67.6%) were aged 65 years or older. The median age at death was 72 years. As in previous years, decedents were commonly white (95.2%) and well-educated (47.6% had a least a BA).
  • While most patients had cancer, the percent of patients with cancer in 2014 (68.6%) was lower than in previous years (79.4%), and the percent with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was higher (16.2% in 2014, compared to 7.2% in previous years).
  • Most (89.5%) patients died at home, and most (93.0%) were enrolled in hospice care either at the time the DWDA prescription was written or at the time of death.
  • As in previous years, the three most frequently mentioned end-of-life concerns were: loss of autonomy (91.4%), decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (86.7%), and loss of dignity (71.4%).
  • During 2014, no referrals were made to the Oregon Medical Board for failure to comply with DWDA requirements.

Since 1998, the year in which the first person in Oregon took medication prescribed under the law, a total of 1,327 patients have received the prescription, of whom 859 (64.7%) ingested it and died. These figures continue to underscore not only that only a small number of people use the law but also that more than one third of those who received the medication took it, finding great comfort in merely knowing it was available to them. Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act continues to work flawlessly and to provide ease of mind and relief to Oregonians facing the end of life.

The board members and staff of Death with Dignity National Center, as the successor of the organization that passed Oregon’s law in 1994, are proud of our accomplishments. We are honored to be able to count on your support in promoting and passing Death with Dignity laws based on the Oregon model throughout the United States.

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