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Oregon

Legal situation

In short

The Oregon Death with Dignity Act was the first death with dignity act in the USA. The law has been in effect since October 27, 1997. It has worked as intended and without flaws or any evidence of abuse or coercion. The Oregon Health Authority monitors and enforces compliance with the Act and each February it produces an annual report. Since 1998 (measured until 2016), the deadly medication has been given more than 1500 times and taken almost 1000 times, resulting in death.

Several attempts have been made to have the law repealed, but without success. The law was also submitted to the Supreme Court in 2006, but this court did not consider the law to be contrary to the American Constitution. (Source: Death With Dignity)

In 2019, three bills have been introduced in the state legislature. The bills intended to optimize the Death with Dignity Act. Suggested was to add a definition of ‘self-administer’ in the act (which was not there yet), to expand the definition of ‘terminal disease’ (thereby eliminating the six months term) and to create an exception to the defined waiting periods, when it comes to patients who have shorter to live. One of these bills succeeded – this resulted in some improvements in accessibility of the act. 

Read more: Oregon

1997 – Oregon Death with Dignity Act 

The Oregon Death with Dignity Act has been in effect since October 27, 1997. The law created conditions under which medical aid in dying would be allowed: The request must come from the competent adult patient himself and will only be honored if he has only 6 months left to live. Two witnesses must be present at the request. One of them may in no way have a connection with the applicant. After the request, a second physician must make a diagnosis. After the first oral request there is a waiting period of 15 days thereafter, the patient must submit a second request. Physicians and pharmacists may refuse cooperation.

2020 – Improvement of the Oregon DWD Act

From the first day of 2020, the following changes have gone into effect into the DWD Act:

  • Patients are exempt from any waiting period that exceeds their life expectancy.
  • Patients with less than 15 days to live are exempt from the 15-day waiting period between the first and second oral requests for medication.
  • Patients with less than 48 hours to live are exempt from the 48-hour waiting period between the patient’s written request and the writing of the DWDA prescription.
  • The Attending Physician must file a medically confirmed certification of the imminence of the patient’s death with the patient’s medical record if any of the statutory waiting periods are not completed.

This change is due to developments in 2019. Then three bills were introduced in the state legislature. 

Oregon Senate Bill 579  (This bill passed and went into effect in 2020)
This bill was introduced in the Senate on January 14, by two Democratic senators and one Democratic representative. This bill creates an exception under Death with Dignity Act to a 15-day waiting period for patients with less than 15 days to live. Creates an exception to two-day waiting period for patients with less than two days to live. The other two bills were: 

Oregon House Bill 2232
This bill was introduced in the House on January 14, by four Democratic representatives and three Democratic senators.
The bill prohibits anyone other than a patient from administering medication to end a patient’s life in a humane and dignified manner. Defines “self-administer.” Expands definition of “terminal disease.” Permits patients to request medication to end a patient’s life in a humane and dignified manner no earlier than 90 days after receiving a terminal diagnosis. Creates an exception to the 90-day waiting period for patients with less than six months to live.

Oregon House Bill 2217
This bill was introduced in the House on January 15, by five Democratic representatives and three Democratic senators. 
The bill prohibits anyone other than a patient from administering medication to end a patient’s life in a humane and dignified manner. Defines “self-administer” to include ingestion or other delivery method.

Latest news

Oregon data 2020 published

On February 26, the Oregon Health Authority released its Death with Dignity Act Annual Report about 2020. The Oregon Death with Dignity Act (DWDA) allows