Death with Dignity Acts

Death with Dignity laws allow mentally competent adult state residents who have a terminal illness with a confirmed prognosis of having 6 or fewer months to live to voluntarily request and receive a prescription medication to hasten their inevitable, imminent death. Two physicians must confirm the patient’s residency, diagnosis, prognosis, mental competence, and voluntariness of the request. Two waiting periods, the first between oral request, the second between receiving and filling the prescription, are required.

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Three states have Death with Dignity laws, all of which we helped draft, pass, and defend:

  • Oregon (Oregon Death with Dignity Act; 1994/1997)
  • Washington (Washington Death with Dignity Act; 2008)
  • Vermont (Patient Choice and Control at the End of Life Act; 2013)

In California the End of Life Option Act, passed this year, is not yet in effect.

Montana does not currently have a statute safeguarding physician-assisted death. In 2009, Montana’s Supreme Court ruled nothing in the state law prohibited a physician from honoring a terminally ill, mentally competent patient’s request by prescribing medication to hasten the patient’s death. Since the ruling, several bills have been introduced to codify or ban the practice, none of which have passed.

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