In 1997, Oregon voters reasserted their desire to make physician-assisted suicide legal. Oregon's law requires that the patient be "capable" to make the choice and that he or she make this choice voluntarily, without pressure from family or health care providers. It is not yet clear how these troubling characteristics will be interpreted in the law.
The Oregon law includes a two-week waiting period to ensure that a patient has really considered suicide and definitely wants to die. This safeguard actually limits the usefulness of physician-assisted suicide, because people who might seek it are often very near death.
In its first six months, there were two publicized suicides under Oregon's law, and fewer than ten have been reported confidentially to the state [as of 1999]. This relatively low number might stem from Oregon having invested substantially in improving end-of-life care generally. Although their improved end-of-life care is available to all, the physician-assisted suicide statute is available only to long-term Oregon residents. You cannot move to Oregon at the end of your life simply to end it.
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Physician-assisted suicide outside Oregon
|Copyright © 1999, 2006 by Joanne Lynn. This extract from the Handbook for Mortals by Joanne Lynn, M.D. and Joan Harrold, M.D. is used with permission. To learn more about improving care at the end of life visit the main web site for Americans for Better Care of the Dying.|