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June 7, 1995

Law and Medicine

Author Affiliations

Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC, and The Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, Md

JAMA. 1995;273(21):1688-1689. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520450058029

The conventional view that physician-assisted death represents a legal and moral wrong is being reexamined in state referenda and the judiciary. Ballot Measure 16 in Oregon passed, making the state the first to specifically authorize physicians to prescribe drugs to end the life of a terminally ill patient who makes a voluntary, informed choice. The initiative allows an adult with 6 months to live to request a prescription for a lethal dose of drugs; two physicians must certify that the patient is terminally ill, and the patient must request the prescription three times, the last time in writing. The physician must wait 15 days before writing the prescription.1 On December 7, 1994, a federal district court judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking implementation of the law. The order was based on constitutional grounds that the law provides inadequate safeguards for persons with depression and draws an impermissible distinction

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