The Oregon Law
Read the law: The Oregon Death With Dignity Act
In 1994 Oregon voters approved Measure 16 (51%-49%), the Oregon Death with Dignity Act (DWDA) by ballot initiative, permitting terminally ill patients, under proper safeguards, to request a prescription for medication from their doctors that they can choose to ingest to bring about a peaceful death. Barbara Coombs Lee, President of Compassion & Choices, served as co-author and chief petitioner.
Subsequently, the National Right-to-Life Committee challenged Oregon’s law. The challenge was held up in the courts until the Ninth Circuit Court dismissed it in 1997. That year, the Oregon legislature put a measure on the ballot to rescind the law, but it was defeated by 60 percent of the voters.
In 2003, a federal judge blocked a directive by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to suspend the license for prescribing drugs covered in the Controlled Substances Act of doctors who prescribed life-ending medications under the Oregon law. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the block, stating that the "Attorney General lacked Congress' requisite authorization".
In October, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Oregon v. Gonzales (formerly Oregon v. Ashcroft). The Court ultimately ruled that the Justice Department had gone beyond its authority in trying to suspend the licenses of doctors prescribing drugs for legal aid in dying.
The State of Oregon Department of Human Services annual reports on the DWDA gives clear evidence that terminally ill patients and their families are benefiting from aid in dying. The reports indicate the law poses no harm to vulnerable populations. Further, the number of Oregonians receiving aid in dying through Oregon’s landmark DWDA has remained stable over the years, after a predictable small increase, as aid in dying became a normal part of end-of-life care options.
Oregon Department of Human Services annual reports on Death With Dignity
1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011