I mean, I always thought so, but now it’s been confirmed by an outside source.
The American Society of Business Publication Editors‘ Midwest-South Region handed out its annual “Azbee” awards last night and I was a winner. One of my articles from last year — “Oregon still stands alone: Ten years of physician-assisted suicide” — won the gold award in the feature article category.
Here are the first few grafs of the story, which ran months before Washington became the second state to legalize doctor-aided dying:
It was 10 springs ago that a Portland woman in her mid-80s sat to talk about her impending death. Doctors guessed the metastatic breast cancer wracking her body would kill her within two months. As the city shook off its winter slumber, the woman — whose identity is still a secret — anticipated her eternal rest.
“I’m looking forward to it,” she said in a recording later made available to reporters. “I can’t see myself living a few more months like this.”
Disease set her on the path toward death, but the woman was determined to choose when and how to take her final steps. For that, she needed a doctor’s help.
On a Tuesday in 1998, in the presence of her family, she became the first patient to commit suicide with a physician’s aid under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act.
A physician prescribed a lethal dose of barbiturates. The woman washed down a mixture of the medication and syrup with a glass of brandy and died shortly thereafter.
Whether the path chosen was a victory for patient autonomy or an ethical tragedy depends upon one’s view of this wrenching issue. But what is clear — and what comes as a surprise given the predictions of supporters and opponents of physician-assisted suicide — is that it is a path still lightly traveled.
Through the end of last year, only 340 more Oregonians had chosen physician-assisted suicide. And after a decade, Oregon still stands as the lone state to legalize the practice.
There is no tidal wave of patients moving to Oregon to die, and there is no evidence of a slippery slope toward involuntary euthanasia there, as opponents once feared. At the same time, there is no sign that many states will rush to follow Oregon’s lead on physician-assisted suicide, as supporters still hope.
Though Oregon’s law remains seldom used and unduplicated, its impact on physicians, patients and the movement to improve end-of-life care cannot be overstated.
The whole shebang.