Editorials

Oregon's plans to legalise suicide assisted by a doctor

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.310.6980.613 (Published 11 March 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:613
  1. Melinda A Lee,
  2. Susan W Tolle
  1. Assistant professor of medicine, Division of Geriatrics Director, Center for Ethics in Health Care Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, OR 97207, USA

    How much more open will the practice become?

    Oregon voters' approval of Ballot Measure 16 in last November's election marked the first time that suicide assisted by a doctor had been legalised anywhere in the world. Although an injunction currently bars the law, its passage by the electorate suggests that American attitudes towards suicide assisted by a doctor are shifting gradually towards acceptance.1 Surveys suggest that the attitudes of American doctors2 3 4 5 are also shifting—as they are in many other countries.

    If the injunction is lifted the new law in Oregon will allow a primary care doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs for a terminally ill adult patient who asks for it in order to give himself or herself an overdose. The doctor has the right to decline. The patient must be a resident of Oregon who is competent, informed, and expected to die within six months. A second doctor must confirm the prognosis. The patient must make two oral requests, separated by a 15 day waiting period, and one written request. …

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