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Oregon removes assisted suicide wait for certain patients

Legislation allowing certain terminally ill patients to have quicker access to life-ending medications under the state's first-in-the-nation assisted suicide law has been signed into law.

Posted: Jul 24, 2019 3:27 PM
Updated: Jul 24, 2019 3:49 PM

By SARAH ZIMMERMAN Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Legislation allowing certain terminally ill patients to have quicker access to life-ending medications under the state's first-in-the-nation assisted suicide law has been signed into law, Gov. Kate Brown's office announced Wednesday.

The law allows those with 15 days left to live to bypass a 15-day waiting period required under the Death with Dignity Act, something proponents say will reduce bureaucracy and bring relief to gravely ill people.

"This improvement will result in fewer Oregonians suffering needlessly at the end of their lives," said Democratic Sen. Floyd Prozanski, who helped sponsor the legislation.

Some opponents argued that the move amounted to an unnecessary expansion of the state's physician-assisted suicide law, saying the law removes critical safeguards meant to ensure people are confident in their decision to end their own life.

"I don't want to make it any easier for any individual in any circumstance to take their life prematurely," Republican Rep. Duane Stark said during floor debate last month.

Those seeking life-ending medications had to make a verbal request for physician-assisted suicide, wait 15 days and then make a written request. They then had to wait an additional 48 hours before obtaining the prescription.

Under the new amendment, doctors can make exceptions to the waiting periods if the patient is likely to die before completing them.

"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, a national nonprofit that advocates for the expansion of medical aid in dying.

The number of people who have taken advantage of Oregon's law has been relatively small. Since it enacted the nation's first physician-assisted suicide law in 1997, over 1,500 people died from taking life-ending medications prescribed to them by a physician. In 2018, about 46 per every 10,000 deaths could be attributed to the state's death with dignity law, according to state data.

After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Oregon's law in 2006, eight states have since approved physician assisted-suicide. Maine and New Jersey's laws are set to take effect later this year.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 139355

Reported Deaths: 1904
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah29403466
Washington19370183
Marion16840250
Clackamas12186142
Lane8850113
Jackson723497
Umatilla702874
Deschutes528341
Yamhill333851
Linn322950
Malheur321755
Polk259940
Klamath256848
Josephine186836
Benton184614
Douglas180547
Jefferson173925
Union115817
Wasco112723
Columbia108218
Lincoln104417
Coos102116
Hood River99423
Morrow96810
Clatsop7185
Crook66914
Baker5835
Tillamook3732
Curry3275
Lake2605
Grant2171
Harney1906
Wallowa1003
Gilliam531
Sherman480
Wheeler201
Unassigned00

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Cases: 3235045

Reported Deaths: 38268
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles108548815614
San Bernardino2685421719
Riverside2668492970
Orange2391752768
San Diego2300662421
Santa Clara991741278
Kern91119591
Fresno863361084
Sacramento846531194
Alameda71298906
Ventura67066546
San Joaquin60545844
Contra Costa55593492
Stanislaus49500803
Tulare43574542
Monterey38434261
San Mateo34510356
San Francisco30734293
Santa Barbara27149267
Solano27141118
Imperial25745510
Merced25743332
Sonoma25160251
Kings20223161
Placer18034188
San Luis Obispo17151161
Madera14068175
Santa Cruz13088136
Marin12067166
Yolo11276146
Shasta10144132
Butte9865136
El Dorado824566
Sutter812984
Napa807050
Lassen530916
San Benito523851
Yuba522730
Tehama456446
Tuolumne351241
Nevada339473
Mendocino332236
Amador307433
Lake272932
Humboldt265227
Glenn202822
Colusa19079
Calaveras171323
Siskiyou150413
Mono11454
Inyo105329
Del Norte8783
Plumas6185
Modoc3924
Mariposa3575
Trinity3065
Sierra950
Alpine740
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