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Usage of Oregon's Death With Dignity Act (DWDA).

  • Author(s): Blanke, CD
  • LeBlanc, ML
  • Hershman, DL
  • Ellis, LM
  • Meyskens, FL
  • et al.
Abstract

44 Background: In 1997, OR enacted a voter initiative allowing terminally ill residents to self-administer physician-prescribed medication to end their lives. Statute requires prescriptions written for lethal medications be reported; the state also collects demographic and intended use data. We wished to to evaluate and report participation trends.OR's Public Health Division gathers compliance forms from prescribing/consulting physicians, pharmacists, and psychiatrists, prescribing physician follow-up forms, and death certificates. Data from 1998-early 2016 were reviewed, collated, and interpreted.1,545 prescriptions were written; 991 pts died from legally-prescribed lethal medication. The % of prescription recipients dying from drug use per yr ranged from 48-82, with no significant trend (logistic regression 2-sided p = .90) The prescribing rate increased 12%/yr on average through 2013, with a 28% increase in 2014 and 40% in 2015, not explainable by growth in population. Characteristics of 991 pts dying from drug: Most recipients had cancer (77%); 8% had ALS, 4.5% lung disease, 2.6% heart disease, and 0.9% HIV. 5.3% were sent for psychiatric evaluation. M/F (%) 51.4/48.6; median age (years) 71 (range 25-102); race white/black/asian/hispanic (%) 97/0.1/1.3/1; hospice Y/N (%) 90.5/9/5. 94% died at home. Estimated median time between intake and coma (min): 5 (range 1-38); to death (min): 25 (range 1-6240). 3.3% had known complications. Reasons for DWD (%): ADL not enjoyable 90; loss of autonomy 92, dignity 79, or bodily functions 48; inadequate pain control 25; financial 3.The number of prescriptions written for ORDWDA medications increased annually since enactment. The % of recipients self-administering drugs has varied. Very few pts are referred for psychiatric consultation prior to DWD. Most pts dying from lethal medications have cancer, and the overwhelming majority expire at home. Medications used are effective and rapidly acting. Little evidence exists disadvantaged pts are disproportionally using DWD. Pts use DWD for reasons related to QOL, autonomy, and dignity, and relatively rarely because of inadequate pain palliation. Future studies should evaluate why many pts prescribed lethal drugs choose not to take them.

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