Ryan T. Henderson writes about it for the Daily Signal.
[T]he October issue of the Southern Medical Journal included a study examining the correlation between legalizing physician-assisted suicide and the overall suicide rate. The study, “How Does Legalization of Physician-Assisted Suicide Affect Rates of Suicide?”, contradicts the notion that legalizing assisted suicide would reduce the total number of suicides by helping people cope with their declining condition.
The study… showed that suicides increase when physician-assisted suicide is legalized: “Controlling for various socioeconomic factors, unobservable state and year effects, and state-specific linear trends, we found that legalizing PAS [physician-assisted suicide] was associated with a 6.3 percent increase in total suicides.” Later, the researchers commented that “the introduction of [physician-assisted suicide] seemingly induces more self-inflicted deaths than it inhibits.”
The study was intended to determine whether or not the legalization of physician-assisted suicide provides an effective form of suicide prevention for those considering non-assisted suicide. Such is the claim of the Swiss group EXIT, which advocates for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide on the basis that “the option of physician-assisted suicide is actually an effective form of suicide prevention.”
To test this claim, researchers took suicide rates from states that have already legalized physician-assisted suicide—including Oregon, Washington, and Vermont—and compared them both to the suicide rates in the same states before physician-assisted suicide was legalized, and to suicide rates in states where physician-assisted suicide is not yet legal.
According to the researchers, “There is no evidence that [physician-assisted suicide] is associated with significant reductions in nonassisted suicide for either older or younger people.” Furthermore, the data “do not suggest that on average PAS leads to delays in non-assisted suicide.”
As one might suspect, the researchers found that instead of reducing suicides, legalizing physician-assisted suicide increases them. This uptick in suicides following the legalization of physician-assisted adds another reason to the already long list of reasons that physician-assisted suicide is bad policy.
I love this study, because this is the exact same methodology that economists like John Lott and Gary Beck use to analyze the effects of concealed carry laws on violent crime. This is the right way to explore how changes in the law change human behavior. You don’t want to just say what you think will happen, because it feels good to you. You want to look in other places and times where these laws have been tried, and then see the results. That’s the conservative approach to decision-making.