Oregon's slippery-slope suicide law gets more slippery

Oregon's slippery-slope suicide law gets more slippery

Oregon's slippery-slope suicide law gets more slippery

Opponents of a physician-assisted suicide law in Oregon are warning about new legislation that will loosen restrictions in a liberal state where few barriers exist.

During the current legislative session, Oregon Right to Life is pleading with lawmakers to oppose an amendment that updates the state’s “Death with Dignity” law by removing many of the safeguards that were put in place many years ago. If the updated law is approved, which is likely, a 15-day waiting period would drop to 48 hours; an Oregon residency requirement would be dropped; and physician assistants and nurse practitioners can prescribe the life-ending pill.

“We're hoping we'll be able to keep it from passing,” Lois Anderson, of Oregon Right to Life, tells AFN.

Oregon was the first U.S. state to approve physician-assisted suicide thanks to the Death with Dignity Act that passed in 1997.

The current state law allows a terminally-ill person, who is expected to live for six months or less, to request medical aid in hastening death. That six-month restriction is unchanged in the proposed changes though the language in such already-liberal laws tends to be loosened, or dropped entirely, over time. The 15-day waiting period, for example, went into effect in 2020 but is being dropped to two days three years later.

Anderson, Lois (Oregon Right to Life) Anderson

In its annual report for 2022, the Oregon Health Authority acknowledged physician prescriptions have increased for the 23rd time in the state’s 25-year history of allowing medical doctors to help kill their patients. In 2022, 431 people received a legal, lethal prescription from an Oregon doctor.

Anderson tells AFN it is sad doctors in many cases are aiding in suicide with people, supposedly their own patients, they hardly know. Last year, only three were sent for a psychiatric evaluation so the lack of referrals for such help is a serious problem, too.

“When we know,” Anderson says, “that being diagnosed with a terminal illness, depression or other kinds of mental illness conditions, are a natural part of that process.”