February 24, 2024

Case study shows flaws in Oregon suicide law

Opponents of Oregon’s assisted suicide law have highlighted a “mistake” made by a doctor who prescribed a lethal dose of barbiturates to mentally unstable patient without a terminal illness. Under the law only patients of sound mind with less than six months to live are eligible.

In a case study presented to the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in May, Dr Gregory Hamilton, of the lobby group Physicians for Compassionate Care (PCC), said that Michael F. Freeland had a long history of depression and suicide attempts. In the last year of his life, he was twice declared mentally incompetent. He kept 32 firearms, including a machinegun, and thousands of rounds of ammunition at home. His house was uninhabitable, with heaps of clutter, rodent faeces, ashes extending two feet from the fireplace into the living room, and inadequate food and heating.

Despite his troubled history, his doctor did not think a psychiatric consultation was necessary and gave him a prescription for suicide pills. However, he died nearly two years after doctors gave him six months to live. “This case proves [that] there are no effective safeguards for the vulnerable and mentally ill,” commented the PCC.