Monday, February 25, 2013

Oregon Lawyer: "Without transparency, our law is not safe."

Dear Montana Representative:

 I understand that HB 505 will strengthen Montana law against assisting suicide, including physician-assisted suicide.  For that reason I write in support of that bill.

I am a lawyer in Oregon who specializes in injury claims, including wrongful death cases. I write to inform you that our law lacks transparency and that even law enforcement is denied access to information collected by the state. Moreover, this is official state policy.

In 2010, I was retained by a client whose father had died under our assisted-suicide act. Unlike other deaths I have investigated, it was difficult to get basic information.

After I wrote the state epidemiologist, I received a letter from the Attorney General’s office that the agency charged with collecting assisted-suicide data, the Oregon Health Authority, “may only make public annual statistical information.” The letter also referred me to the Oregon Medical Board and law enforcement.

The board wrote me that there could be no investigation without an allegation of misconduct against a physician. At my request, a police officer was assigned to the case. Per his confidential report, the Oregon Health Authority would neither confirm nor deny that my client’s father had died under our act. Per the report, the officer did, however, talk to the doctor signing the death certificate who said that he did not know that the death had involved assisted suicide. The death certificate listed the “immediate cause of death” as “cancer” and the “manner of death” as “natural.“

Per the report, the officer also spoke with potential perpetrators who assured the officer that the death had been voluntary. The officer closed the case.

This is a link to Oregon’s data release policy as of Jan. 1, that it “will NOT confirm on a case-by-case basis whether an individual has used, or a provider has been involved, with Death with Dignity.” ( )

Without transparency our law is not safe.
Please don't make our mistake.

Isaac Jackson

Jackson Law Office, LLCEugene, OR