The number of assisted suicides in Oregon jumped by a fifth to 367 deaths last year, with ever-more people facing vomiting and other complications, and one patient who took nearly a week to die.

The state’s annual report on its Death with Dignity Act (DWDA), as procedures are known, comes as ever-more US states consider letting the terminally ill end their lives with lethal doses of prescribed drugs.

The 18-page report, released this month, showed that 560 people received prescriptions for deadly medications in 2023, and 367 ingested drugs and died from them — both sharp upticks from 2022.

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) said the rise was driven by a recent loosening of state law to allow people from other states to travel to Oregon and request drugs there — a process known as ‘death tourism.’

Doctor-assisted suicide schemes are available in all three West Coast states. Pictured:  Robert Fuller begins to plunge the drugs that will end his life into his feeding tube in Seattle, Washington

Some 4,274 people have received prescriptions and 2,847 have died from ingesting deadly drugs since Oregon passed its Death with Dignity Act in 1997

At least 23 non-residents used the new scheme and ended their lives in Oregon last year — though official say this is likely to be an undercount, as not all such deaths are reported, said OHA official Tom Jeanne.

‘The full impact of allowing out-of-state residents to access the law is unclear, as information about where the patient lives has not been collected during the DWDA prescription process,’ said Jeanne.

Those who chose to end their lives in Oregon were overwhelmingly white and elderly — 82 percent of them were aged 65 and above.

Most often, DWDA recipients suffered from cancer (66 percent), followed by brain disease (11 percent) and heart disease (10 percent).

Fully 92 percent of them said they wanted to die because their condition would see them lose autonomy

Many said they were worried about life becoming less enjoyable (88 percent), loss of dignity (64 percent), and loss of bodily control (47 percent).

A worrying 43 percent said they were concerned about becoming a burden on loved ones.

Dr Sejal Hathi heads the health authority in Oregon, which manages America’s most developed doctor-assisted suicide program

An example of the drugs used by doctors to end lives in Belgium, which has one of the world’s most developed euthanasia programs

Another 8 percent said they were ending their lives because of the costs of their treatment.

Most patients died within an hour of taking their drugs — typically a fatal cocktail of diazepam, morphine, phenobarbital, and other medicines.

Oregon health official Tom Jeanne

But not all deaths were quick and easy.

Ten people faced complications, such as vomiting up their drugs or getting a burning sensation in their throats.

One patient took fully 137 hours — nearly six days — to die.

OHA did not provide any more details about the slow death.

Critics of the DWDA said it was evidence that procedures were unsafe.

‘If this had been an execution, it would have been cruel or unusual punishment, wrote British author Simon Caldwell.

The new numbers come amid growing concerns that Oregon and other US states are liberalizing their assisted-suicide programs too quickly and following the example of Canada, where 13,241 people were euthanized in 2022.

Doctor-assisted suicides are currently allowed in 10 states and Washington DC.

Oregon’s doctor-assisted suicide program has been controversial since the outset. Pictured: Demonstrators from both sides of the debate outside the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington in 2005 

In Canada, doctors give lethal injections to the lives of terminally ill patients. In some US states, patients apply for a prescription of deadly drugs, which they typically take at home 

They are being considered in 19 states this year, including Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee, and Virginia.

These bills typically allow people with six months or less to live to request prescriptions from a doctor that they can take at home. Doctors can only prescribe the drugs to patients they assess as mentally competent.

Supporters of assisted suicide schemes say they help some desperately sick people end their suffering.

Critics say they devalue human life and make death a solution for the infirm, disabled and even those who are cash-strapped or feel like a burden

Oregon became the first US state to allow physician-assisted suicide in 1997, allowing terminally ill adult Oregonians, with less than six months left to live, to ask doctors for a fatal dose of drugs they then administer themselves, typically at home.

In 2023, it became the first US state to allow non-residents to travel to the West Coast state to end their lives.

Out-of-state residents must be able to spend at least 15 days in Oregon to process the paperwork, which requires sign-offs from two doctors and witnesses, before administering the fatal dose themselves.

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