Los Angeles Times Examines Oregon Assisted-Suicide Law
The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday examined Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, the 1994 law that serves as a model for a California bill (AB 654) that would legalize physician-assisted suicide in some cases.
Both the Oregon law and the California bill include provisions to allow state residents 18 years of age and older with six months or less to live to end their lives with a self-administered prescription. As with Oregon's law, the California bill would require physician consultations and a waiting period (Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 5/24).
Under the California bill, sponsored by Assembly members Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) and Patty Berg (D-Santa Rosa), a patient's terminal condition would have to be diagnosed by two physicians. In addition, a patient would be required to complete a series of patient-doctor consultations, generally lasting at least two weeks.
The bill would not authorize physician-assisted suicide in cases in which the patient is diagnosed with depression. In addition, it would not authorize lethal injection, mercy killings or euthanasia (California Healthline, 5/17). In addition, the bill would not hold physicians who administer lethal prescriptions liable.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday is expected to vote on the bill. According to the Times, the bill likely will pass in the committee but will face a close vote on the Assembly floor next week.
The Oregon law was approved by 51% of state voters in 1994 and upheld in an October 1997 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. In November 1997, 60% of state residents voted against repealing the law. The U.S. Supreme Court in November 2004 agreed to hear in its term beginning in October another appeal dealing with the Oregon law.
Between 16 and 42 people per year have ended their lives through physician-assisted suicide since the law was passed, according to the Oregon Department of Human Services (Los Angeles Times, 5/24).