1994 November 8

Oregon Voters Approve Death with Dignity Act


Oregon voters on this day approved Measure 16, the Death with Dignity Act, by a margin of 51 percent. The law went into effect on October 27, 1997, and allows individuals to voluntarily end their own lives by ingesting a life-ending drug that is prescribed by a licensed physician. The law has survived two challenges. Oregon voters rejected a repeal measure by a margin of 60 percent in 1997. And in 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the law, in Gonzales v. Oregon.

Between 1997 and the end of 2013, 1,173 had ended their lives under the law. In each year, more prescriptions for life-ending drugs were written than the number of people who actually ended their lives. Some people did not use the drug until the following year, when it was officially recorded, but others evidently chose not to use it. It is not the case that only a few “death doctors” prescribe the drug. In 2013, for example, 62 physicians wrote 122 prescriptions.

By 2014, physician-assisted suicide was also legal in the states of Washington, Vermont, and Montana.

Learn more about the law at the Oregon Division of Public Health: http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Pages/index.aspx

Learn more: Howard Ball, At Liberty to Die: The Battle for Death with Dignity in America (2012)

Read: Derek Humphry and Mary Clement, Freedom to Die: People, Politics, and the Right-to-Die Movement (1998)

Learn more about assisted suicide: http://www.assistedsuicide.org/farewell-to-hemlock.html

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