By Dave Andrusko
Oregon’s so-called Death with Dignity Act was enacted in 1997, the first state in the nation to do so. For the next 25 years the state required residency, seemingly a commonsense, bare minimum. But Oregon has now abandoned even that.
According to CNN, “After an Oregon physician filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the residency requirement in Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, the state, along with the Oregon Medical Board and the Oregon Health Authority, agreed they would no longer apply or enforce the requirement – thus allowing non-Oregon residents to access medical aid in dying in the state.”
Not surprisingly Dr. Nicholas Gideonse was represented by Compassion & Choices, formerly known as The Hemlock Society.
CNN’s Raja Razek further explained that “The Oregon Health Authority, the Oregon Medical Board, and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office ‘agreed to draft internal directives stating that they would not apply or otherwise enforce the residency requirement,’ according to the settlement.”
NRLC ‘s strong opposition was widely quoted, including in CNN’s story, the New York Times, and twice in a story appearing in the Catholic News Service.
“In the push to legalize assisted suicide laws here in the United States, proponents argue that there are so-called safeguards in place,” said Jennifer Popik, JD,director of National Right to Life’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics. “Not only are these so-called safeguards totally inadequate, but they are regularly followed by efforts to remove them.”
Laura Echevarria, NRLC director of communications and press secretary, added “Oregon’s February 2019 report on its assisted suicide law showed that the terminal diseases that qualified some patients for the lethal overdose included diabetes and arthritis. These are not terminal conditions.”
For example, she noted “In California, when a woman’s insurance company would not cover her prescribed chemotherapy treatment, she inquired if assisted suicide was covered under her plan,” Echevarria added. “She was told, ‘Yes, we do provide that to our patients, and you would only have to pay $1.20 for the medication.’”
Of course, having no residency requirement means the state will become a magnet for people seeking to end their lives. Echevarria, told The New York Times that the change in this law “allows for anyone traveling to Oregon to seek assisted suicide. We do believe Oregon will become the assisted suicide tourism state.”
Dr. Greg Burke, co-chair of Ethics Committee of the Catholic Medical Association, which counts 2,400 “health care professionals” in 115 local guilds among its membership, said a physician’s role at the end of their life is not to abandon their patients but to “caringly walk with the patient through that uncertainty, alleviating suffering, while providing every opportunity for meaningful living as one prepares for death.”
Since 1997, 3,280 people have received the assisted-suicide prescriptions. 2/3rds–2,159 people–have died from ingesting the medications, according to a report from the Oregon Health Authority.
Alas, that number is likely to spiral out of control.