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When a story about worrying suicide rates in Oregon crossed my computer, I bet myself that the expert being interviewed and the reporter would ignore the obvious: Oregon officially sanctions some suicides and calls them “choice” if the suicidal person has a terminal illness—even if he or she is not experiencing significant symptoms—and moreover, permits doctors to intentionally assist in the self destruction. Needless to say, I was right. From the story:

Suicide is one of our more enduring public health problems. Because it accounts for only 1.3 percent of deaths, it still is often looked on as a rare problem. But there were nearly 33,000 suicides in 2005. More people kill themselves than are killed by others.

What about in Oregon? Oregon ranks in the top 10 states for rate of suicide, and in the top five for suicide rate among the elderly. The states with the highest suicide rates are west of the Mississippi. It’s a convergence of factors. Guns are more available, and in more rural areas, such as eastern Oregon, access to adequate mental health care is tough.
And if you are dying of cancer, you probably won’t get a referral to a mental health professional no matter where you live from the doctor who prescribes poison with which to do yourself in—who thereby adds the “authority” of the physician to the “rightness” of your suicide. If that isn’t a mixed message, I don’t know what is.

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