A Comparison of Characteristics of Kevorkian Euthanasia Cases and Physician-Assisted Suicides in Oregon

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death and dying, end-of-life decision making, physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia

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Purpose: The sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of Kevorkian euthanasia cases were compared with Oregon physician-assisted suicide (PAS) cases and U.S. mortality data.

Design and Methods: Two hundred variables were coded from medical examiner reports on all 69 Kevorkian euthanasia cases who died and were autopsied by the Oakland County Medical Examiner. Data on the 43 Oregon PAS cases in the first two years and U.S. mortality data were obtained from published sources.

Results: Only 25% of patients euthanized by Kevorkian were terminally ill as compared to 100% of Oregon PAS cases. PAS cases were significantly more likely to have cancer (72%) than euthanasia cases (29%). Women and those who were divorced or had never married were significantly more likely to seek euthanasia than would have been predicted by national mortality statistics.

Implications: Gender and marital status appeared to influence decisions to seek an assisted death, and research on the role of these factors in end-of-life decision making is merited.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

The Gerontologist, v. 41, issue 4, p. 439-446