Assisted suicide has been legal for a year in Washington, and the state health department has issued its first report.
During the first year, 63 people requested and received lethal prescriptions to kill themselves. 47 have since died, while 36 are confirmed to have used the poison to accomplish it. Although 79 percent suffered from cancer, few cited pain as the reason for seeking end of life treatment as the main concern was the cost for alternate treatment.
"What is and has been the reality of this [is] that when you transform assisted suicide into a medical treatment, it makes it just like every other medical treatment, except it's lots cheaper. And people begin to see it as a benefit for the family," comments Rita Marker, attorney and president of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide (ITF).
Many of the patients had insurance, but Marker says that means nothing. It does, however, serve as a reminder of an Oregon cancer victim whose treatment was rejected by her insurance. She was told, though, that they would cover her drugs for assisted suicide. The report shows there are too many unknowns, and the possibility of murder is an example.
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