At present (April 2001) only the state of Oregon has a statute permitting doctor-assisted/physician-assisted suicide (DAS/PAS) and then only within very narrowly prescribed circumstances, i.e., for a terminally ill patient. In the November 1998 elections, voters in Michigan defeated a ballot measure to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. Earlier in the last decade, voters in California and Washington state defeated similar ballot measures. A bill similar to Oregon's PAS law died in the Maine Legislature's Judiciary Committee in February 2000 and the issue before Maine voters as a referendum in the November 2000 election was narrowly defeated by some 51% of those voting [yeas 315,031; nays 332,280]. Such measures although often introduced often die within committee hearings and seldom reach the floor of the full legislative body. An example of such proposed legislation is California AB1592 THE DEATH WITH DIGNITY ACT, proposed early in 1999-- presented here in an analysis form. Permissive DAS legislation is overshadowed by measures prohibiting DAS under penalty of law. The Death with Dignity National Center has compiled a summary of current legislative efforts to permit and prohibit doctor assisted suicide.
In the remainder of the states outside Oregon, DAS/PAS is subsumed under assisted suicide. Thirty-nine states have a statute prohibiting assisted suicide. Six states Alabama, Idaho, Massachusetts, Nevada, Vermont, and West Virginia prohibit assisted suicide through application of common law. In spring 1999, Maryland was the latest state by statute to outlaw assisted suicide. Four states North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, and Wyoming have neither a statute nor common law which prohibits assisted suicide.
Professor Vollmar, Willamette University College of Law, has prepared a lengthy summary of recent developments in litigation and legislation on physician assisted suicide.
If the Pain Relief Promotion Act of 1999, passed by the House, received in the Senate on November 19, 1999 and referred to the Committee on Judiciary, becomes the law of the land, the legal and political landscape surrounding doctor assisted suicide will once again be markedly altered. See the The Oregonian for a further analysis of the proposed legislation with projected outcome of Senate vote.