1997 October 27

Oregon’s “Death with Dignity” Law Takes Effect


The Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which was approved by referendum on November 8, 1994, and which allows voluntary end of life, took effect on this day. The law 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, suggesting that many people changed their mind. The data also indicated that it was not the case that only a few “death doctors” prescribe the drug. In 2013, for example, 62 different physicians wrote the 122 prescriptions that were issued that year.

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

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

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

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