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Physician assisted suicide (PAS)

Activity in Oregon

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Contrasting quotations:

bullet "The voters of Oregon acted with great humanity when they decided to allow terminally ill people to determine when they have suffered enough." New York Times 1

bullet "How can there be 'death with dignity' when the patient must humbly petition the doctors, then meekly wait for a unanimous ruling?" Sheldon Richman, senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation. 1

bullet "The longer you keep an act in place, the more people become desensitized to it, and it no longer causes the appropriate righteous indignation." William Toffler, MD, national director of Physicians for Compassionate Care. 2


The Death With Dignity law went into effect in Oregon in 1997. It allows some terminally-ill patients to request assistance in committing suicide. By the end of 2004, 208 individuals had ended their life with the help of lethal prescriptions. The number appeared to be leveling-off at about 40 assisted suicides per year. However, in 2008, the number increased to 60, and dropped to 59 the next year. Physician assisted suicide under the act accounts for only one-seventh of one percent of all deaths in the state.

Individuals who commit suicide via prescription are overwhelmingly motivated by a loss in quality of life:

bullet 92% reported a decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable,
bullet 87% reported loss of autonomy, and
bullet 78% reported loss of dignity.

In 2006-JAN, after years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Oregon program is constitutional and legal under current federal laws. It may continue in spite of Federal Government efforts to close it down. However, the Court left the door open for future federal laws that might outlaw the practice.

According to Brad Knickerbocker of the Christian Science Monitor -- reporting at the start of 2010:

"Over the years, there have been no reported violations under the law no evidence that individuals have been pressured by doctors or family members. And Oregon has become noted for the quality of end-of-life care, especially the use of hospices." 3

Topics covered in this section:

bullet Activities 1994 to 1997
bullet Activities 1998 to 2003
bullet Activities during 2004 & 2005
bullet PAS data as of 2009

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Sheldon Richman, "The fraud of physician assisted suicide," Baltimore Chronicle, 2004-JUN-06, at:
  2. Andis Robeznieks, "Assisted-suicide numbers up in Oregon," AmedNews, 2004-APR-5, at:
  3. Brad Knickerbocker, "Montana becomes third state to legalize physician-assisted suicide," Christian Science Monitor, 2010-JAN-02, at:

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Copyright 1997 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated 2010-JUL-03

Author: Bruce A Robinson
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