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Death with Dignity Must Be Made Available in All 50 States

February 26, 2009

Peg Sandeen, Executive Director
Phone: 503.228.4415

The Death with Dignity National Center, the original sponsor of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act and the lead author of the 2008 Washington Death with Dignity Act, makes the following statement about the arrest of four members of the Final Exit Network:

Yesterday’s arrests in Georgia and Maryland of four members of the Final Exit Network highlight the need for Oregon-style Death with Dignity laws for every state. The four individuals were alleged to have committed the act of “assisting a suicide,” an approach to hastening death which is expressly forbidden under Oregon’s model legislation.

The Oregon Death with Dignity Act regulates the practice of physician-assisted dying, using explicit guidelines and safeguards enshrined in the state’s law. The law mandates that patients be terminally ill, mentally competent, and adult residents of Oregon who have been evaluated by two different physicians. Furthermore, the law requires waiting periods, mental competency evaluations for individuals suffering from depression, and multiple requests from patients. The law contains multiple safeguards to protect the residents of Oregon. (Read the safeguards here.)

Currently, Death with Dignity under the strictest and safest guidelines is legal only in the state of Oregon. (Read more about how the law works here.) Beginning March 4, residents of Washington will have access to Death with Dignity because of the voter-approved initiative passed in the November, 2008 election.

According to Portland, Oregon, attorney Eli Stutsman, author of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act and founding board member of the Death with Dignity National Center, “Oregon’s law is a rational public policy governing one facet of end-of-life care. It protects patients and their family members by providing physicians with a medical standard of care governing the practice.”

Oregon’s law has been successfully implemented since 1997. A total of 541 individuals have received prescriptions under the Act, and 341 individuals have ingested the prescribed medication. Use of the law is exceedingly rare, and the largest benefit to individuals in the state is the peace of mind that is created by the simple presence of the law. (View statistics about the law here.)

The Death with Dignity National Center is not affiliated with the Final Exit Network. The Death with Dignity National Center works to change existing state laws through the ballot initiative process and legal action in state and federal courts.

Starting in April, 2005, the Death with Dignity National Center identified Washington as the most likely state to enact a Death with Dignity Act, began initial preparations for a ballot initiative campaign, and acted as a leader in the effort to get the law passed. After systematic analysis of all 50 states, in April, 2009, the Center will announce the next state in which to wage a Death with Dignity campaign.


Posted on February 26, 2009

Defend dignity. Take action.

You are the key to ensuring well-crafted Death with Dignity laws for all Americans. With your financial and volunteer help, the Death with Dignity National Center, a 501(c)(3), non-partisan, nonprofit organization, has been the leading advocate in the Death with Dignity movement. Individual contributions helped us pass new Death with Dignity laws in Washington and Vermont, defend the Oregon law, and provide education and outreach programs for the vitality of the Death with Dignity movement.

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