Proponents of I-1000 respond to their opponent’s ads by claiming it is safe and is supported by independent studies as well as the former governor of Oregon-where death with dignity is legal.
Claim #1: “It’s modeled after Oregon’s law.”
Claim #2: “Nine independent studies have proven it is safe.”
When you go to the campaign’s official Web site, www.yeson1000.org, you can click on a link entitled “Independent Studies” that takes you to a Web page where you might expect to find nine independent studies to read. Instead, you discover a much longer list of titles, some of which are not independent, objective studies, but written opinions by medical professionals. The first link on this page takes you to the nine annual reports that have been issued by the Oregon Department of Human Services on the state’s own Death with Dignity Act, which Oregon voters approved in October 1997. Ostensibly, these are the “nine independent studies” referred to in the advertisement. Technically, these studies merely attempt to report demographic statistics about PAS patients as well as statistics surrounding the act of administering the lethal drug; they don’t make normative judgments about the safety of Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS). (More on these statistics in the next few paragraphs)
Claim #3: “With both Laws, two doctors must insure patients are mentally competent and have six months or less to live.”
Claim #4: Former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts: “The same exaggerations were made in Oregon as we passed the ‘Death with Dignity’ law here. None of those worst-case scenarios happened, none of them.”
While pinpointing what she means by “worst-case scenarios” is difficult, we can look at the statistics gathered by Oregon Department of Human Services for its annual report to determine whether “worst case scenarios” were ever realized.
The demographic statistics of PAS patients show that 97 percent of patients were white (97 percent of Oregonians are white); 45 percent were married (20 percent of Oregonians are married); more than 90 percent had at least a high school education and 41 percent had at least a bachelor’s degree (these two statistics beat the averages for national per capita education levels); approximately 76 percent of patients were between 55 and 85 years old. These statistics refute claims made in advertisements opposing the passage of I-1000, particularly the “Martin Sheen” ad, which claims that the “poor, disabled and most vulnerable in our society” could have this “imposed” on them. While income was not a statistic gathered by the ODHS, education levels for PAS patients were higher than the national average. If we assume that level of education positively correlates to personal income, then PAS patients are probably not poorer than average and might be wealthier than average.
The statistics surrounding the administration of the lethal dose of drugs demonstrate that administration of the drug was generally safe, though there were instances of negative side effects. Eleven percent of PAS patients were referred for psychiatric evaluation before the doctor prescribed the drug; 95 percent informed family about the decision prior to administering the drug (that statistic does not take into account whether the patient had any family to inform); and 94 percent of patients had no complications while administering the drugs. The most common complication was regurgitating the drugs with 6 percent of patients doing so. Through nine years, one patient woke up after taking the lethal dose. Overall, these statistics support the former Governor’s claim that the “worst-case scenarios” have not happened.
Overall, this ad appears to be accurate and truthful.