Democratic Gov. Kate Brown signed legislation amending Oregon’s aid-in-dying law to allow doctors to waive a waiting period before prescribing lethal drugs to patients on the threshold of death.
Under the new law, patients requesting the drugs won’t have to wait 15 days to receive them if their doctor determines they would not survive that long. Like most jurisdictions that permit aid-in-dying, Oregon requires patients to make two oral requests before they can be given the drugs, and their requests must be separated by at least 15 days. In Oregon, the patient also must make a written request.
Oregon’s 1997 Death with Dignity Act — the first of its kind in the country — allows mentally competent patients expected to live six months or less to request lethal medication from their doctors. Patients are required to administer the drugs themselves. The law is intended to help dying patients avoid suffering.
Patients can now make the second oral request any time after making the first.
“Forcing eligible patients to die suffering unnecessarily while they wait 15 days was not the intention of the Oregon law,” said Kim Callinan, CEO of Compassion & Choices, which advocates for aid-in-dying laws across the country.
The state Senate in May approved the measure 16-11 with no Republican votes, and the state House followed in June on a 35-22 vote.
New Jersey and Maine this year will become the latest jurisdictions where aid-in-dying is legal, joining Oregon, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C.