I am a lawyer in Oregon who specializes in injury claims including wrongful death cases. I understand that Montana will be considering assisted suicide legislation this session. I write to inform your readers that Oregon’s assisted suicide law lacks transparency. Even law enforcement is denied access to information collected by the State. Moreover, this is official state policy.
In 2010, I was retained by a client whose father had died under our assisted-suicide act. Unlike other deaths I have investigated, it was difficult to get basic information.
After I wrote the state epidemiologist, I received a letter from the Attorney General’s Office that the agency charged with collecting assisted-suicide data, the Oregon Health Authority, “may only make public annual statistical information.” The letter also referred me to the Oregon Medical Board and law enforcement.
The Board wrote me that there could be no investigation without an allegation of misconduct against a physician. At my request, a police officer was assigned to the case. Per his confidential report, the Oregon Health Authority would neither confirm nor deny that my client’s father had died under our act. Per the report, the officer did, however, talk to the doctor signing the death certificate who said that he did not know that the death had involved assisted-suicide. The death certificate listed the immediate cause of death as “cancer” and the manner of death as “natural.”
Per the report, the officer also spoke with potential perpetrators who assured him that the death had been voluntary. He closed the case.
This is a link to Oregon’s data release policy as of Jan. 1, that it “will not confirm on a case-by-case basis whether an individual has used, or a provider has been involved, with Death with Dignity.” http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Pages/policy.aspx
Without transparency our law is not safe.
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