Analysis

Oregon expands assisted suicide to allow death tourism, despite troubling stats

assisted suicide, New Zealand

Oregon, the first state in the country to legalize assisted suicide, is moving to expand its program by allowing non-residents to travel there solely for the purpose of dying.

After a lawsuit challenged the Oregon residency requirement, the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Medical Board agreed to stop enforcing the provision. They will also request that the legislature officially remove the residency requirement, allowing death tourism to flourish. “This requirement was both discriminatory and profoundly unfair to dying patients at the most critical time of their life,” Kevin Diaz, an attorney with Compassion & Choices, said in a statement. Diaz denied it could entice suicidal people to flock to Oregon. “There’s no tourism going on.”

Yet the most famous person to undergo assisted suicide in Oregon, Brittany Maynard, moved to Oregon for the sole purpose of killing herself. Countries without residency requirements for assisted suicide, like Switzerland, likewise see people travel from around the world to pay tens of thousands of dollars for doctors to assist in their suicides.

While assisted suicide advocates would surely argue that this simply means more states need to allow doctors to kill their patients, Oregon’s own data should give pause to expanding this deadly program.

The state’s most recent annual report continues to reaffirm that people are undergoing assisted suicide for troubling reasons. Nearly all people who were killed cited “losing autonomy” and “less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable” as their reasoning for being killed, at 93% and 92%, respectively. Oregon has also allowed people to be killed for anorexia now as well — all as Oregon ranks the worst state in the country for mental illness. Yet less than 1% of patients killed were referred to psychiatrists first, even though very few were concerned about uncontrollable pain — the reason most often given for undergoing assisted suicide.

READ: Latest report reveals troubling trends in Oregon’s assisted suicide rates

Additionally, the number of patients who experienced complications slightly rose — and these are only known complications. Over half of all patients killed have no information available for any potential complications.

Laura Echevarria, a spokeswoman for National Right to Life, told NBC News the organization fears this will not only encourage death tourism, but also open the doors to more abuse of the law, as patients won’t be seeing physicians familiar with them or their treatment. “The hope is that doctors will continue to evaluate patients,” she said, “but it certainly creates a situation where there could be more abuse of that law.”

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