Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Assisted Suicide Laws May Overlook Depressed Patients

Date:
October 8, 2008
Source:
BMJ-British Medical Journal
Summary:
One in four terminally-ill patients in the State of Oregon who opt for physician assisted suicide have clinical depression and the Death with Dignity Act may not be adequately protecting them, concludes a new study.

One in four terminally ill patients in the State of Oregon who opt for physician assisted suicide have clinical depression and the Death with Dignity Act may not be adequately protecting them, concludes a study published on the British Medical Journal website.

In 1997, the State of Oregon passed the Death with Dignity Act that allows physician assisted dying for terminally ill patients.

The extent to which potentially treatable psychiatric disorders may influence patients' choices to hasten death is hotly debated. There are several safeguards in the Act to ensure patients are competent to make the decision to end their life. This includes referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist if there is concern that a patient's judgment might be impaired because of mental illness.

However, it is well known that health care professionals often fail to recognise depression among the mentally ill. In 2007, none of the 46 Oregonians who died by lethal ingestion were evaluated by a psychiatrist or a psychologist.

Dr Linda Ganzini and colleagues from Oregon Health and Science University, assessed 58 Oregonians who were terminally ill and had requested physician assisted suicide or contacted an aid in dying organisation, to determine if they had depression or anxiety. The authors used standardised measures including questionnaires and interviews to assess depression and anxiety in the participants.

The researchers found that the current practice of legalised assistance with dying allowed some potentially ineligible (clinically depressed) patients to receive a lethal prescription.

Fifteen of the participants met the criteria for depression and 13 for anxiety. Forty-two patients had died by the end of the study, 18 received a prescription for a lethal medication under the Act and nine died by lethal ingestion. Fifteen who received a lethal prescription did not meet the criteria for depression, three did, and all three died by lethal ingestion within two months of the research interview.

Although the authors acknowledge that most patients who request aid in dying do not have a depressive disorder they point out that "the current practice of Death with Dignity Act may not adequately protect all mentally ill patients" and call for "increased vigilance and systematic examination for depression among patients who may access legalised aid in dying."

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Marije van der Lee from the Helen Dowling Institute in the Netherlands, says that while it is vital to protect vulnerable patients, examining terminally ill patients to determine if depression is impairing their judgement is complex.

She believes that depression does not necessarily impair judgement and says that in the Netherlands what is most important is that the patient makes an informed decision. She concludes: "we should focus on trying to 'protect' patients from becoming depressed in the first place, rather than focus on protecting patients from assisted suicide."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

BMJ-British Medical Journal. "Assisted Suicide Laws May Overlook Depressed Patients." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081007192534.htm>.
BMJ-British Medical Journal. (2008, October 8). Assisted Suicide Laws May Overlook Depressed Patients. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081007192534.htm
BMJ-British Medical Journal. "Assisted Suicide Laws May Overlook Depressed Patients." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081007192534.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nine-Month-Old Baby Can't Open His Mouth

Nine-Month-Old Baby Can't Open His Mouth

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) Nine-month-old Wyatt Scott was born with a rare disorder called congenital trismus, which prevents him from opening his mouth. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) In a potential breakthrough for future obesity treatments, scientists have used MRI scans to pinpoint brown fat in a living adult for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins