Oregon: the Death with Dignity Act
In November 1994 the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, a citizens' initiative, was passed in a referendum by the narrowest of margins: 51% to 49%. Implementation of the Act was delayed pending a court challenge to its con stitutionality. On 27 October 1997 the injunction preventing its implementation was lifted by the Federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In November 1997 voters rejected a proposal to repeal the Act by 60% to 40%. Since then, several people have made use of the legislation to end their lives by PAS.
The Act allows physicians to prescribe patients lethal drugs in certain circumstances. The Act provides:
An adult who is capable, is a resident of Oregon, and has been determined by the attending physician and consulting physician to be suffering from a terminal disease, and who has voluntarily expressed his or her wish to die, may make a written request for medication for the purpose of ending his or her life in a humane and dignified manner.1
Some of the Act's requirements relate to patients, others to physicians.
The patient must be an 'adult', which the Act defines as an individual aged 18 or over.2____________________