What Is the Oregon Death with Dignity Act?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Oregon Department of Human Services wrote in the introduction to its website page "Death With Dignity Act," available at oregon.gov (accessed Oct. 31, 2008):

"On October 27, 1997 Oregon enacted the Death with Dignity Act which allows terminally-ill Oregonians to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose."

Oct. 31, 2008 - Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) 


Read the full text of the Death with Dignity Act in PDF format (Oct. 27, 1997).


The Oregon Department of Human Services wrote in its Mar. 2006 "Eighth Annual Report on Oregon's Death with Dignity Act" published on oregon.gov, that:

"The Death with Dignity Act allows terminally ill Oregon residents to obtain and use prescriptions from their physicians for self-administered, lethal medications. Under the Act, ending one's life in accordance with the law does not constitute suicide. However, we use 'physician-assisted suicide' because that terminology is used in medical literature to describe ending life through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications prescribed by a physician for that purpose. The Death with Dignity Act legalizes PAS [physician-assisted suicide], but specifically prohibits euthanasia, where a physician or other person directly administers a medication to end another's life.

To request a prescription for lethal medications, the Death with Dignity Act requires that a patient must be:
  • An adult (18 years of age or older),
  • A resident of Oregon, [see Oregon's definition of "resident" in the Editor's Note below]
  • Capable (defined as able to make and communicate health care decisions), and
  • Diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months.

Patients meeting these requirements are eligible to request a prescription for lethal medication from a licensed Oregon physician. To receive a prescription for lethal medication, the following steps must be fulfilled:
  • The patient must make two oral requests to his or her physician, separated by at least 15 days.
  • The patient must provide a written request to his or her physician, signed in the presence of two witnesses.
  • The prescribing physician and a consulting physician must confirm the diagnosis and prognosis.
  • The prescribing physician and a consulting physician must determine whether the patient is capable.
  • If either physician believes the patient's judgment is impaired by a psychiatric or psychological disorder, the patient must be referred for a psychological examination.
  • The prescribing physician must inform the patient of feasible alternatives to assisted suicide, including comfort care, hospice care, and pain control.
  • The prescribing physician must request, but may not require, the patient to notify his or her next-of-kin of the prescription request."
[Editor's Note: Residency requirements are defined in The Death with Dignity Act revised statutes in section 127.860. The requirements include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • "Possession of an Oregon driver license";
  • "Registration to vote in Oregon";
  • "Evidence that the person owns or leases property in Oregon"; or
  • "Filing of an Oregon tax return for the most recent tax year."
According to the Oregon Health Authority's "Frequently Asked Questions: About the Death with Dignity Act," available at www.public.health.oregon.gov, "It is up to the attending physician to determine whether or not the patient has adequately established residency."]

Mar. 2006 - Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) 
Eighth Annual Report on Oregon's Death with Dignity Act (184 KB)  

The Oregon Department of Human Services wrote in its 2006 publication "Death With Dignity Act History" published on oregon.gov:

"Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) has been legal in Oregon since November 1997, when Oregon voters approved the Death with Dignity Act (DWDA) for the second time...

The Oregon Death with Dignity Act was a citizen's initiative first passed by Oregon voters in November 1994 with 51% in favor. Implementation was delayed by a legal injunction, but after proceedings that included a petition denied by the United States Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the injunction on October 27, 1997. In November 1997, a measure asking Oregon voters to repeal the Death with Dignity Act was placed on the general election ballot (Measure 51, authorized by Oregon House Bill 2954). Voters rejected this measure by a margin of 60% to 40%, retaining the Death with Dignity Act. After voters reaffirmed the DWDA in 1997, Oregon became the only state allowing legal physician-assisted suicide."

Mar. 2006 - Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) 
Oregon Death With Dignity Act History (11KB)