OLR Research Report


January 22, 2002

 

2002-R-0077

OREGON'S ASSISTED SUICIDE LAW

 

By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney

Dates

Events

November 8, 1994

Oregon voters passed Death with Dignity Act (Measure 16) by a margin of 51% to 49%.

December 27, 1994

A preliminary injunction issued against the measure.

August 3, 1995

A permanent injunction was issued.

February 27, 1997

A three-judge panel of the U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the injunction.

October 14, 1997

The U. S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

November 4, 1997

Oregon voters defeated Measure 51, which would have repealed the Death with Dignity Act, by a vote of 60% to 40%.

1998 (Specific date unknown)

DEA determined that narcotics and other dangerous substances controlled by federal law could not be used to assist suicide.

June 5, 1998

U. S. attorney general overruled DEA determination, leaving it to the states to decide whether controlled substances could be prescribed to assist suicide.

November 6, 2001

U. S. attorney general issued a letter reinstating the original DEA determination, citing the U. S. Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, 532 U. S. 483 (2001).

November 7, 2001

Oregon's attorney general sought a restraining order on the U. S. attorney general's letter.

November 8, 2001

The court issued a temporary restraining order, effective until November 20, 2001.

November 20, 2001

The court extended the temporary order for four months. A trial is expected in April of 2002.

Categories

2000

1999

1998

Total

Number of reported assisted suicide deaths

27

27

16

70

Number of reported lethal prescriptions written

39

33

24

96

First doctor asked wrote prescription

11

8

8

27

Doctor present when patient took lethal drugs

14

16

8

38

Median duration (weeks) of patient-doctor relationship before lethal prescription provided

8

22

11

14

Patient Information

       

Underlying illness:

Cancer

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Other*

21

2

0

4

17

4

4

2

14

0

1

1

52

6

5

7

Median age in years

69

71

70

70

Reasons for requesting assisted suicide:

Fear of being a burden

Fear of losing autonomy

Fear of losing control of bodily

function

Inadequate pain control

Fear of decreasing ability to do

enjoyable activities

Financial implications

Combined concerns of burden,

autonomy, activity, and bodily

functions

Other combinations of burden,

autonomy, activity, and bodily

functions

17

25

21

8

21

1

11

15

7

21

16

7

22

0

4

17

2

12

9

2

11

0

0

13

26

58

46

17

54

0

15

45