Physician-assisted suicide is legal in four US states: Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont.
On Jan. 17, 2006, in Gonzales v. Oregon, the US Supreme Court voted 6-3 to uphold the ability of physicians to prescribe lethal doses of controlled substances to terminally ill patients.
Between Oct. 27, 1997 (when the Oregon Death with Dignity Act was passed) and 2007, 341 people in the state of Oregon have died from lethal drugs prescribed under the terms of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.
On Nov. 5, 2008, Washington became the second US state to legalize physician-assisted suicide after voters approved a ballot initiative (59% to 41%) to implement the Washington Death with Dignity Act.
Euthanasia is legal in three countries worldwide: Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.
On Dec. 5, 2008, Montana district judge Dorothy McCarter made Montana the third state with legal physician-assisted suicide with her ruling in the case of Baxter v. Montana.
The original text of the ancient Greek Hippocratic Oath, written sometime between 460 and 380 BC, contained prohibitions against surgery, abortion, and euthanasia. It is still taken (in some form) by many medical school graduates.
A 2003 study appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 11 percent of physicians surveyed (1,902 total) would, under certain circumstances, be willing to hasten a patient's death by prescribing medication, and that 7 percent would administer a lethal injection, despite both acts being illegal at the time of the survey.
A May 2006 Gallup Poll found that 69% of Americans answered yes to the question "When a person has a disease that cannot be cured, do you think doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient's life by some painless means if the patient and his family request it?"