No Documented Case of Anyone Using Law for Untreatable Physical Pain

To view a print version of this document, click here.

By Margaret Dore, August 13, 2011

There is no documented case of anyone using physician-assisted suicide for untreatable physical pain.  William Toffler, MD, states:
"In Oregon there has never been any documented case of assisted suicide used because there was actual untreatable pain.  As such, assisted suicide has been totally unnecessary in Oregon."
William Toffler, MD, "What People Mean When They Say They Want to Die," Statement to the BBC, 2008. 
"The actual Oregon experience has been a far cry from the televised images and advertisements that seduced the public to embrace assisted suicide.  In statewide television ads in 1994, a woman named Patty Rosen claimed to have killed her daughter with an overdose of barbiturates because of intractable cancer pain.  This claim was later challenged and shown to be false.  Yet, even if it had been true, it would be an indication of inadequate medical care- not an indication for assisted suicide."

In the most recent annual report from Oregon, just 10 people (15.4%) who died under the act listed "inadequate pain control or concern about it" as a  concern behind their applying for the lethal dose.  See Table 1 to the 2010 Oregon Report, page 2, available here. To view the 2010 report summary and other Oregon reports, go here