Navigation Links
Physician-Assisted Suicide Program Rarely Used, Study Finds
Date:4/11/2013

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 10 (HealthDay News) -- Physician-assisted suicide laws can raise controversy and concern with their passage, but a new study from Washington state suggests many of those fears may be unfounded.

Washington's Death With Dignity Act hasn't lead to scores of terminally ill people seeking lethal prescriptions, the researchers report: Almost three years after the law was enacted, just 255 people had obtained a lethal prescription from a physician.

Of those 255 prescriptions, 40 were written for terminal cancer patients at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. And, in the new study, doctors there found that only 60 percent (24 people) of their patients chose to use their prescription to hasten their death.

"Most Americans say that they want to die at home with family members around, not in pain and with their mental faculties as in tact as possible. But, not everyone is achieving that kind of good death. For the rare number of people using the Death With Dignity program, we are reassured by the high numbers of people who use palliative or hospice care and who talk with their families about this decision," said study author Dr. Elizabeth Trice Loggers, medical director of palliative care at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

Results of the study appear in the April 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Physician-assisted death, also known as physician-assisted suicide, is currently legal in Oregon, Washington and Montana. Other states, among them Hawaii, Pennsylvania and Vermont, are considering legislation to allow physician-assisted deaths for people with terminal illnesses.

Washington's law was passed in November 2008, and enacted in March 2009. The Death With Dignity Act contains a number of safeguards. The illness must be terminal, and the patient must be competent. The request must be voluntary, the person making the request can't have a mental illness that might impair their judgment and they must understand what treatment and palliative care options are available.

Additional safeguards have been put in place at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance that include no advertising of the program, no new patients whose sole purpose is to access the Death With Dignity program and voluntary participation by physicians and other staff members.

From March 2009 through December 2011, 114 patients at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance asked about the Death With Dignity program. Of these, 44 chose not to pursue the program at all.

Another 30 people initiated the process, but either chose not to continue to the next step, or died in the interim.

Forty patients received a prescription for a lethal dose of secobarbital, a powerful sedative. Twenty-four patients died after ingesting the medication. On average, the time from ingestion to death was 35 minutes. The remaining 16 patients chose not to use their prescription and eventually died from their cancer.

Those who participated were mostly married white males with more than a high school education. Their ages ranged from 42 to 91, according to the study authors. All had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The most common reasons people cited for participating in the program were loss of autonomy, an inability to engage in enjoyable activities and a loss of dignity.

"Each year, there are over 50,000 deaths in Washington state, and cancer is the second leading cause of death. The number who chose to participate in the Death With Dignity program is miniscule. This study shows that people are not making these decisions lightly," Trice Loggers said. She added that patients and their families have expressed gratitude for the program.

Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, said he thought the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance took great care to be as neutral as they could, so that it was up to the patients to pursue physician-assisted death.

"Before these laws were enacted, one of the concerns in the suicide prevention community was that these laws would be promoted," Kennedy said. And, while he was pleased to see that there was no such promotion, he still has concerns about physician-assisted death programs.

He noted that most of the people who participated in the program were older, white males. As a group, older, white males tend to have higher than normal suicide rates, even without a terminal diagnosis, according to Kennedy.

While one of the requirements of the law is that someone must be competent and free of mental illness that could impair their judgment, Kennedy said it can be difficult to diagnose depression in terminally ill patients. It wasn't clear from the study if people only met with social workers, or if they were referred to psychologists or psychiatrists, according to Kennedy.

The good news, he said, is that "this law has not led to a whole rush to suicide in the terminally ill."

Trice Loggers reiterated: "Our job is to cure cancer. But, there are situations where we just can't do that. Among those who opted for Death With Dignity, the number using hospice was 80 percent or greater. They were able to include their family and to die at home, which is consistent with how most people say they want to die."

"It's important to remember that in Washington, this law was passed by referendum. Approximately 60 percent of voters said this was an appropriate end-of-life decision," she noted.

More information

Learn more about Washington's Death With Dignity Act.

SOURCES: Elizabeth Trice Loggers, M.D., Ph.D., oncologist and medical director, palliative care, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and assistant member, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle; Gary Kennedy, M.D., director, geriatric psychiatry, Montefiore Medical Center, New York City; April 11, 2013, New England Journal of Medicine


'/>"/>
Copyright©2012 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Risk of suicide and fatal heart attack immediately following a cancer diagnosis
2. Cancer Diagnosis May Raise Odds for Suicide, Heart Attack Death
3. Wartime Killing May Raise Veterans Thoughts of Suicide
4. Fewer suicides after antidepressive treatment for schizophrenia
5. Poor Economy Tied to Rise in Suicides, British Study Finds
6. ADHD May Raise Girls Risk for Suicide as Young Adults
7. Close contact with young people at risk of suicide has no effect
8. Suicide prevention, telemedicine among topics at Mayo Clinic Transform 2012
9. Mayo Clinic suicide prevention expert outlines new steps to tackle military suicide
10. Curbing Suicide Now a National Priority, U.S. Says
11. Suicide Now Kills More Americans Than Car Crashes: Study
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Physician-Assisted Suicide Program Rarely Used, Study Finds
(Date:2/10/2016)... ... ... Early this week, Team Iconic at J. Walter Thompson and Nestlé KITKAT ... global confectionery brand sourced from 100% sustainable cocoa. , The Nestlé Cocoa Plan aims ... activities that focus on better farming, better lives and better cocoa. In order to ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... PA (PRWEB) , ... February 10, 2016 , ... As ... offer two webinars in February 2016. Each webinar features a dynamic expert and ... to benefit their athletes, patients and facilities. Both events are free to attend, ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... ... ... Emergency rooms provide emergency care to stabilize critical health issues, but emergency ... emergencies at risk of losing a tooth or their smiles. Dr. Marine Martirosyan, ... emergencies include:, , Avulsed or knocked-out teeth , ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... St. Louis, Missouri (PRWEB) , ... February 10, ... ... 11-14, 2016, in San Diego, will bring together more than 200 of the ... in healthcare for the future. , “The true benefit of the Forum is ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... ... ... AHRA: The Association for Medical Imaging Management announced today ... as keynote speaker at the organization’s 2016 Spring Conference. Fox’s topic, Lead with ... with their own organizational staff and leadership. , “I am so excited ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:2/10/2016)...  The ALS Association, in partnership with ALS Finding a ... a biomarker to track TDP43 aggregation. The successful team(s) with ... million investment. --> --> ... cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Eventually, people ... movement, which often leads to total paralysis and death within ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... 2016 Puerto Rico Healthcare and Life ... Healthcare and Life Sciences Report 2016 . --> ... Rico Healthcare and Life Sciences Report 2016 . ... largest territory in the world for pharma manufacturing, a territory ... manufacturing, and more universities per square mile than anywhere else ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... 2016  Visage Imaging Inc. ("Visage"), a wholly ... announced that the American College of Radiology (ACR) ... the Visage 7 Enterprise Imaging Platform as the ... Imaging SIMulation (SIM). SIM is the assessment component ... a multi-faceted and fully-integrated online assessment, education and ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: