Under the law, a capable adult Oregon resident who has been diagnosed by a physician with a terminal illness that will kill them within six months may request in writing, from his or her physician, a prescription for a lethal dose of medication for the purpose of ending the patient's life. The request must be confirmed by two witnesses, one of whom cannot be related to the patient, be entitled to any portion of the patient's estate, be the patient's physician, or be employed by a health care facility caring for the patient. After the request is made, another physician must examine the patient's medical records and confirm the diagnosis. The patient must be determined to not suffer from a mental condition impairing judgment. If the request is authorized, the patient must wait at least fifteen days and make a second oral request before the prescription may be written. The patient has a right to rescind the request at any time.
The law protects doctors from liability for providing a lethal prescription for a terminally ill, competent adult in compliance with the statute restrictions. Participation by physicians is voluntary. The law also specifies a patient's decision to end his or her life shall not "have an effect upon a life, health, or accident insurance or annuity policy." --Full Text of the Law
As of 2007, 341 people have ended their lives under Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. The law has been in place since 1995. That's approximately 26 people per year.
During 2007, 85 prescriptions for lethal medications were written [...]. Of these, 46 patients took the medications, 26 died of their underlying disease, and 13 were alive at the end of 2007. In addition, three patients with earlier prescriptions died from taking the medications, resulting in a total of 49 DWDA deaths during 2007. This corresponds to an estimated 15.6 DWDA deaths per 10,000 total deaths.
As in prior years, most participants were between 55 and 84 years of age (80%), white (98%), well educated (69% had some college), and had terminal cancer (86%).
All patients had some form of health insurance: 65% had private insurance, and 35% had Medicare or Medicaid.
As in previous years, the most frequently mentioned end-of-life concerns were: loss of autonomy (100%), decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (86%), and loss of dignity (86%). During 2007, more participants were concerned about inadequate pain control (33%) than in previous years (26%).
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