Death with Dignity

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Term Paper: The Oregon "Death with Dignity" Law

Michael Jones-Peeler

Death and Dying

November 27, 2012

Dr. Lucy Breghman

What is physician-assisted suicide? Physician-assisted suicide is the act of granting or giving death to an ill and suffering patient in quick, painless way for many reasons of mercy. Under Measure 16 of 1994 it was established that the State of Oregon and the Death with Dignity act which legalized physician assisted suicide but came with restrictions. This act passing made Oregon the first state in the United States of America and one of several of the first locations in the entire world to allow and give authority to terminally ill and sick patients the ability to consent and carry out with assistance in their own death.

This act was given approval during the general election where there was a slight edge of victory. “The measure was approved in the November 8, 1994 general election. 627,980 votes (51.3%) were cast in favor, 596,018 votes (48.7%) against.” (Ballot Polls, 1994). As you would think people would appeal this decision due to the nature of this “decision” but it was rejected by well over 50% of the voters, later again by the Bush administration but held strong in triumph due to the Supreme Court of the United States of America in 2006.

Under the law of the state any person who falls under the classification as a resident of Oregon who is diagnosed by a physician that they have an illness which will cause them to die within the upcoming six months or less has the ability in writing from their physician a legal prescription for a dosage of lethal medication in respects to directly ending the life of that patient. Acting out and carrying out this death is optional and by complete means of voluntary actions on part of the patient. A doctor or health care provider can refuse due to objections based on moral reasoning’s and faith etc. but then the patient can just simply go to another doctor who will assist them with death. There needs to be a witness, one who has no ties to either the patient or physician. Then when that request is made another doctor must examine the medical records and confirm the first diagnosis is correct and accurate. The patient has to be deemed fit and free of any conditions of mental problems that would result in their judgment. If all goes well after 15 days a second request this time must be made again before the actual prescription is prescribed. At all times during the process, the patient can back out because this is up to them. If at any time either physician feels the patient is making this decision out of pressure or depression, a psychological examination will have to take place. No doctor under the law can be found liable for prescribing lethal medication for the ill patient who was deemed sane and in compliance with all rules and regulations set forth from the state under this law and act. All acts on all parties are completely voluntary.

From the time the act passed up until 2011 roughly 935 people have had these lethal medications prescribed. Only 596 people have actually taken them that have gotten the actual medicine. In the Journal of Medical Ethics it reads, “no evidence of heightened risk for the elderly, women, the uninsured, people with low educational status, the poor, the physically disabled or chronically ill, minors, people with psychiatric illnesses including depression, or racial or ethnic minorities, compared with background populations." (JME, 2007)

People tried to repeal this act for numerous years and had the normal arguments going verse physician assisted suicide but the people against this felt and believed that people all over the world as who were terminally ill would come to Oregon to take usage of this lethal but legal death under this new Oregon law. But this has not happened because the people who created the law only opened this...
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