Recent Updates

from our blog:

living with dying

read more from our blog


Myth 5: The Oregon and Washington laws are the same as the laws in the Netherlands

MythReality: It's odd, but there seems to be an assumption that all laws allowing for physician-assisted dying are the same. They're not. The Oregon and Washington Death with Dignity Acts are far more restrictive than the Dutch laws.

The reason opponents try to convince people the different laws are the same is to play on the slippery slope myth and to scare people into thinking about PolitiFact's 2009 Lie of the Year: 'Death Panels'. Rick Santorum tried this recently and was rebuffed by media outlets and the Dutch government.

Among the many safeguards, in order to qualify to use the Oregon or Washington law people must be:

Read more: Myth 5: The Oregon and Washington laws are the same as the laws in the Netherlands

Myth 4: It's suicide

Reality: People who oppose Death with Dignity Acts typically say these laws allow assisted suicide. This term is used by opponents to scare people, and assisting a suicide is a banned practice under the law. Assisted suicide is a broad, undefined term, which more accurately refers to criminals like this guy not physicians practicing lawfully under Oregon's and Washington's laws.

In order to make a request for prescribed medication to hasten death, a person must have a terminal diagnosis with six months or fewer to live. The person is in the process of dying and seeking the option to hasten an already inevitable and imminent death. For this reason, the request to hasten a death isn't equated with suicide.

None of the moral, existential, or religious connotations of suicide apply when the patient's primary objective is not to end an otherwise open-ended span of life, but to find dignity in an already impending exit from this world. Individuals who use the law are likely to be offended by accusations of assisted suicide, because they're participating in an act to shorten the agony of their final hours, not killing themselves. Cancer (or another underlying condition) is killing them.

Read more: Myth 4: It's suicide

Myth 3: Death with Dignity Acts are a slippery slope and will lead to euthanasia

Day 226/365Reality: A key aspect of the Death with Dignity laws in Oregon and Washington is patients must self-administer medication prescribed under the safeguards of the laws. Euthanasia, on the other hand, refers to the act of painlessly but deliberately causing the death of another who is suffering from an incurable, painful disease or condition—most commonly administered through a lethal injection.

Conflating these two very different concepts is a specialty of people opposed to Death with Dignity Acts; their aim is to confuse people about what's allowed and what isn't. The fact is, these laws give patients control of their own dying process, and the option to shorten their suffering in their final days. The terminally ill individual is the only person who decides when or whether to take the prescribed medication—and fully a third of the people who request the medication never end up ingesting it.

The Oregon and Washington laws even go another step further with specific language barring euthanasia:

Read more: Myth 3: Death with Dignity Acts are a slippery slope and will lead to euthanasia

Myth 2: It attacks the dignity and threatens the lives of people with disabilities

LIESReality: This lie is quite pervasive. In order to qualify to make a request for medication under the Oregon and Washington Death with Dignity Acts, a person must be an adult (over the age of 18), a resident of Oregon or Washington, judged mentally competent by his or her physicians, and have a terminal illness which will result in death in six months or fewer. Nowhere in these laws does having a disability qualify an individual to request life-ending medication.

Read more: Myth 2: It attacks the dignity and threatens the lives of people with disabilities

Myth 1: It's a recipe for elder abuse

MYTH

Reality: About 15 years ago when Oregon's groundbreaking Death with Dignity Act was going into effect, this lie was commonly spouted as "Duty to Die" by opponents of the voter-approved law. Here's the problem with this assertion: the lengthy request process with multiple doctors and witnesses as well as the requirement that a terminally-ill person must self-administer the six ounces of medication makes this virtually impossible.

The process to request the prescription starts with an oral request to a person's attending physician. The terminal diagnosis of six months or fewer to live as well as the patient's mental capability must be confirmed by another physician. The first oral request is followed by a 15-day waiting period; after which, the person can make the second oral request and complete the written request (witnessed by two people). There's then a 48-hour waiting period before a person can pick up the prescribed medication. After the person picks up the prescribed medication at the pharmacy, it is solely the decision of the patient whether or when he or she takes it—and about a third of the people who request the medication never do.

Read more: Myth 1: It's a recipe for elder abuse

Pages

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.

donate today