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Euthanasia - Oregon's Euthanasia Law

person suicide drugs federal

In 1994, voters in the state of Oregon approved a ballot measure that would have legalized euthanasia under limited conditions. Under the Death With Dignity law, a person who sought physician-assisted suicide would have to meet certain criteria:

  • The person must be terminally ill.
  • The person must have six months or less to live.
  • The person must make two oral requests for assistance in dying.
  • The person must make one written request for assistance in dying.
  • The person must convince two physicians that he or she is sincere and not acting on a whim, and that the decision is voluntary.
  • The person must not have been influenced by depression.
  • The person must be informed of "the feasible alternatives," including, but not limited to, comfort care, hospice care, and pain control.
  • The person must wait for 15 days.

Under the proposed law, a person who met all requirements could receive a prescription of a barbiturate that would be sufficient to cause death. Physicians would be prohibited from inducing death by injection or carbon monoxide.

The NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE COMMITTEE, supported by the Roman Catholic Church, obtained a court INJUNCTION to delay implementation of the measure. The law stalled in the appeals process. In the meantime, the measure was not enacted. In 1997, there was a second public REFERENDUM, and the law was enacted. Within 24 hours of the announcement of the results, state officials had forms for physicians to record instances of assisted suicide. These were later distributed to physicians in the state. The form is entitled "Request for Medication to End My Life in a Humane and Dignified Manner."

Immediately after the law was affirmed, Thomas Constantine, the administrator of the federal DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION (DEA), wrote a policy statement which said that prescribing drugs to help terminally ill patients kill themselves would be a violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Nevertheless, on March 26, 1998, a woman in her mid-eighties died from a lethal dose of barbiturates, which had been prescribed by her doctor under the Oregon law. She was the first person to publicly use the law to commit suicide. She had been fighting breast cancer for 20 years and recently had been told by her doctor that she had less than two months to live. She had been experiencing increased difficulty breathing. She made a tape recording in which she stated, "I'm looking forward to it. I will be relieved of all the stress I have." Her personal doctor would not help her end her life, so she turned to an advocacy group, Compassion in Dying. That group located a doctor to assist her. She fell into a deep sleep about five minutes after taking the lethal dose of pills, and she died peacefully about 25 minutes later. Attorney General JANET RENO officially reversed Constantine's ruling a few weeks later, stating that doctors who use the law to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients will not be prosecuted and that drug laws were intended to block illegal trafficking in drugs, not to cover situations like the Oregon suicide law.

Despite significant controversy, by the end of 1998, one prediction of the anti-choice forces had not materialized: there was no rush of people to Oregon to seek an easy end to life. While it was predicted that many would take advantage of the law, of the 23 terminally ill individuals who applied to end their own lives in 1998, 15 committed suicide, usually within a day of receiving the prescription. Six died from their illnesses without using the medication. Two remained alive at the end of 1998. From 1998 to 2002, 129 people have opted for physician assisted suicide.

In early 2001, Oregon state senator Ron Wyden wrote Attorney General JOHN ASHCROFT asking that the GEORGE W. BUSH administration not mount an attack on the state law permitting assistance in suicide. Ashcroft wrote a letter to Asa Hutchinson, chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration. He declared that assisting a terminally ill patient to commit suicide is not a "legitimate medical purpose" for federally controlled drugs. He said that physicians who use drugs to help patients die face suspension or revocation of their licenses to prescribe federally controlled drugs. This was contrary to the position taken by Janet Reno, his predecessor. The attorney general of Oregon, Hardy Myers, quickly initiated a lawsuit to have the Ashcroft's directive declared unconstitutional. The federal district court in Oregon issued a temporary injunction, which prevents the federal government from enforcing Ashcroft's interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The state of Oregon requested that the court block the federal DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE from taking legal action against Oregon doctors who prescribe medication to help their patients commit suicide. A federal judge ruled in favor of the state law in 2002, and the Department of Justice appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Both sides have stated that they will appeal the decision if they lose.

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over 5 years ago

It's great to see reason and rationality prevailing. We have no problem with having Fido put down when his suffering becomes too much. But, in too many cases, we won't do the same for Granny.

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almost 4 years ago

I ask you this, what is the point of a law?
Should it benefit society?
Should it support humane behavior?
Should it help people?
Now lets look a law stating that euthanasia is illegal
Does it benefit society that we are spending time, money, and resources on people who do not want any of this?
Is making somebody spend the last days of their lives in agonizing pain until they finally meet their inevitable death considered humane behavior? Would you do that to your pet? would you do that to yourself?
Who is this law helping? The patients? Their loved ones? The doctors and nurses who see them suffer every day?

every state should adopt this law

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over 4 years ago

Agnes: You are the epitome of an uneducated lifer. Grab a dictionary when you decide to comment on something. It sounds like it would be horrible living in a comma.

I have the right to suffer and the right to end it. The general public does not have the right to tell me when my suffering will end. Ever take aspirin for a headache? You shouldn't, suffering has a purpose.

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almost 4 years ago

It's my life and I'll die if I want to. If you are against ending your life,DON'T DO IT! But don't deny others that don't share your reigious stupidity.

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over 4 years ago

This is wonderful, I wish the entire US would legalize Euthanasia under those medical requirements. Less people would have to suffer. Place yourself in a person that is terminals shoes, would you want to die in pain, possibly drowning in your own fluids? I would vote to legalize something that would do good.

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almost 4 years ago

I find it interesting that those so opposed to have others' will inflicted on them are so eager to inflict theirs on others.

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over 4 years ago

all of you who are against euthansia have never watched a loved one suffer everyday till their body gives out and they dye in pain and life less. I watched my grandmother suffer with cancer and she was miserable i wish we had the option to end her misery and not let her suffer anymore. for quiet a while she wished when she went to bed she would not have to wake up the next day and suffer all over again. if it was you mother would you want her to be in endless pain every moment of everyday if there was nothing anyone could do or would you want to be able to be there and hold her hand as she dies with dignity around all her family and friends on her terms. my mother died all alone in a hospital something she had always wished would not have happened. so think long and hard before you object euthansia because it could be your wife or mother or sister who suffers all the time and there is nothing you can do but sit there helpless and watch them dye in pain.

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over 3 years ago

I find it funny how people say, "god wouldnt want people to suffer".... God, the crazy bastard, invented hell!! HELL!!!! And he tortured himself in order to allow himself to allow others, not to be tortured forever...

God loves suffering!!!! He is a sick SOB!!!

Throw that stone aged belief system to the curb and embrace reality... Please people...

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over 2 years ago

I am a fifty-two-year-old atheist without religion as a psychological crutch. Knowing I only have one life, makes me value life that much more, but I will not allow idiots to sentence me to a inhumane and torturous death. If a doctor ever gives me a six month life expectancy with horrible factors involved. I would indeed contemplate my own demise, legal or not.

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over 5 years ago

I have done 3 reports on this subject, one when I was a freshman in high school and two when I got into college. I believe strongly that death with dignity should be enforced. I would never want to see someone that I loved suffer. People are always objective towards it, believing it to be equal to murder or being against God, but I don't believe God would want anyone to suffer either. I don't believe it is murder as well. How is it murder? The definition of murder is the unlawful killing of one human by another, especially with premeditated malice. There is no malice what so ever in euthanasia. It is the dying person's wish. They want a peaceful death not a horrible one.

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over 4 years ago

Stephanie:

your a dumb.

Suicide is illigal, if its PAS (IN A HOSPITAL) than its an acception (in 2 states).

you idiot.

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over 4 years ago

Everything in life happens for a purpose. Sufering has a purpose in life too. You shouldnt be the one to decide when the time for your death should be. In some countries euthanasia is overused. The government kills older people just so they can have another open spot in the hospital for a younger patient. This is wrong. What if you were in a comma? You wouldnt be the one to decide wheter you would be "put to sleep" like an animal or if you would have the right to live. You should live life fully. You should have hope that things will get better. I have deep sympathy for thoes who have to suffer.

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over 5 years ago

I am a passionate advocate of 'Death With Dignity', and since Canadian laws, thus far, are not as forward as those of your State, I would like to know if
Canadians could, if required, make arrangements for assistance.
I am a healthy 73, thinking to the future. I have seen relatives die in a horrible manner and would not wish that indignity for myself. I would sincerely appreciate your response. Also the costs involved. Thanks!

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almost 3 years ago

5-1-99 an off duty cop rear ended me driving 100 mph, breaking my complete neck. I've been on pain killers for 14 years, had 4 botched spine surgeries. Wake up in pain, sleep in pain without ever really resting. Now on morphine and it doesn't do the job effectively enough for me to go through one single day in semi-pain, now on a scale of 1-10 my daily normal is a 8. I'm tired of suffering, exhausted with in, a prisoner in my own home, in my own body. The neurosurgeons won't touch me again for fear of causing quadriplegia. Poor living on 655 a month social security disability, doctors don't care how much your suffering. They only care if your breathing, quality of life isn't an issue for the government. At 54 years old, with no family, no friends, no support system, I ready to give up and end it. I'm not depressed, I'm in agony knowing I've years ahead of me, in a failing health care system where you have to fight tooth and nail, while your ill just to get basic services, a walker with wheels, a ramp, a shower chair took over a decade. Health care for this disabled is sorely lacking. People like me should be able to decide when enough is enough. When doctors no longer help, you develop tolerance to all pain medications or they just wont work any longer. A person can only suffer in agony for so long with a debilitating disability without begging for euthanasia. Obama Care cuts are pushing irritractable chronic pain patients to consider it.

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about 3 years ago

This is bad. What they are doing is trying to be God! They are trying to do is decide the time for them to die. I believe fully that that is Gods job and no one else's!

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over 5 years ago

why would you make somebody who wanted to die a dignified and peaceful death do so in a clinical acute setting such a hospital? it is the person who is taking responsibility for their death, and i am sure they would not want the burden of their death on the hospital, nor would they want the hospital involved in such a personal experience. it is one that should be reserved for the people who are closest to the sufferer.

you idiot.

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over 3 years ago

I love this, but I was just wondering why they have to make two oral requests? Do they just ignore the first one? Or do they have to ask two different people? Some laws make no sense to me...it's probably to make sure they are actually serious about it and not making a decision they would regret.

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over 3 years ago

6 feet 275 pounds

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over 3 years ago

6feet 380 pounds

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over 2 years ago

I am in great pain all of the time. I have cervical rediculopathy, I do not want to be on welfare, just stop my pain. I work so that others get pain meds from the governament

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over 2 years ago

"euthanasia is not really the right to die. it is the right to kill" --- i have read that on an article, and i so agree ..

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over 2 years ago

"euthanasia is not really the right to die. it is the right to kill" --- i have read that on an article, and i so agree ..

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over 2 years ago

great info

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over 2 years ago

great info

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over 5 years ago

This should be done in a hospital. If someone is receiving a prescription to commit suicide with federal assistance, a hospice should take responsibility.