Oregon Extends Medically Assisted Death to Non-Residents

By Rebecca Chieffallo, Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act was first approved by a slight majority of 51% of Oregon voters in 1994, making the state the first in the nation to allow physicians to administer lethal medication doses to terminally ill patients.[1] The Act was reaffirmed by 60% of the Oregon population in 1997. [2]

Traditionally, the act has several requirements that needed to be met before a terminally ill patient was approved for the physician-assisted death.[3] First, patients were required to be Oregon residents who received a terminal illness diagnosis from their attending physician, meaning that the illness is incurable and irreversible with a lifespan of approximately six months.[4]

Additionally, a patients’ choice to receive the lethal injection must be voluntary and not due to a psychological disorder or depression.[5] The patient’s state of mind needs to be evaluated through the attending physician, and a second evaluation is required to confirm the patient’s medical records and attending physician’s conclusions.[6]

These attending physicians may dispense or prescribe the lethal medication but may not administer it, and must keep detailed medical records of the events preceding the medically-assisted death.[7] The Act does not permit euthanasia, which means that the patients themselves must administer the medication.[8]

Compassion and Choices is an advocacy group supporting the expansion of the Act to non-residents.[9]

In October 2021, the group filed suit against several executives within the state on behalf of Dr. Nicholas Gideonse, who operated a practice in Oregon and taught as an assistant professor of family medicine at Oregon Health and Science University.[10] Compassion and Choices alleged the resident requirement of the Act violated the Constitution’s prohibition of states favoring their residents over non-residents.[11]

Kevin Diaz, an attorney for Compassion and Choices said that the residency requirement was not fair to all patients in the county.[12] “[The requirement is] discriminatory and profoundly unfair to dying patients at the most critical time of their life,” Diaz said.[13]

The case settlement was filed on March 28, and the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Medical Board, and Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office agreed to not enforce the residency requirement.[14] However legislative striking of the requirement is still needed.[15]

Gideonse was pleased by the abolishment of the residential requirement after he was previously prohibited from treating patients across the border near Portland in Washington state.

“I feel very, very good about this resolution,” Gideonse said, “[N]o other aspect of my medical care is restricted by state lines…I feel safe to talk to my patients in Washington.” [16]

There have been some critiques of the settlement by groups such as the National Right to Life, an anti-abortion group.[17] However, other states have also passed similar laws in recent years such as California, Vermont, and New Jersey passed similar laws in recent years.[18]

The lifting of the Act’s residential requirement now allows Gideonse and other Oregon physicians the option to hear requests from out-of-state patients that would not have been considered in the past.[19]

[1] https://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/death_with_dignity_law/#.YlRQNdPMLQ0

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] https://www.westlaw.com/Document/Idaacbfaa876211da8ccab4c14e983401/View/FullText.html?transitionType=Default&contextData=(sc.Default)&VR=3.0&RS=cblt1.0

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/2022-03-29/out-of-state-residents-can-now-seek-medically-assisted-suicide-in-oregon

[9] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/29/us/oregon-suicide-residency.html

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/2022-03-29/out-of-state-residents-can-now-seek-medically-assisted-suicide-in-oregon

[13] Id.

[14] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/29/us/oregon-suicide-residency.html

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/2022-03-29/out-of-state-residents-can-now-seek-medically-assisted-suicide-in-oregon

[18] https://www.npr.org/2022/03/30/1089647368/oregon-physician-assisted-death-state-residents

[19] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/29/us/oregon-suicide-residency.html

Comments are closed.