Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Just Another Prescription

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Just Another Prescription

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "Ten Years of 'Death with Dignity'" by Courtney S. Campbell, in The New Atlantis, Fall 2008.

UNLESS YOU LIVE IN THE Pacific Northwest, you may not know that the voters in the state of Washington passed a "death with dignity" initiative on November 4 by a 16-percentage-point margin. In 1997, a ferocious battle preceded the narrow approval of an Oregon law allowing doctors to write lethal prescriptions for dying patients. In 2006, the law survived a Supreme Court challenge brought by two attorneys general. Now, in contrast to the earlier drama, the extension of the so-called right to die to a second state in November was almost ho-hum news.

Part of the reason is that in 10 years of experience with Oregon's law, only 541 patients in a state of 3.7 million acquired prescriptions for lethal drugs. Of those, only 341 used them. None of the fears surrounding the new law have proved justified. No public outcry has arisen over pressuring dad to die so junior can sell the business. No flood of lawsuits has been filed over the legislation.

What has happened, writes Courtney S. Campbell, a religion and philosophy professor at Oregon State University, is that doctors have almost certainly changed the way they practice medicine. …

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