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April 22, 1996

Oregon's Physician-Assisted Suicide Law: Provisions and Problems

Author Affiliations

Elisabeth Daniels Center for Outcomes and Policy Research Studies Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Control Dana-Farber Cancer Institute 44 Binney St Boston, MA 02115; was a recipient of the Career Development Award, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Ga.

Arch Intern Med. 1996;156(8):825-829. doi:10.1001/archinte.1996.00440080011002

O NOVEMBER 8, 1994, Oregonians passed Ballot Measure 16 that is known as the Oregon Death With Dignity Act by a vote of 51.3% to 48.7% This ballot measure legalizes physicianassisted suicide—it permits an "adult resident of Oregon, who is terminally ill to voluntarily request a prescription for medication to take his or her life."1 Along with the law recently enacted in the northern territory of Australia, this constitutes the first time since World War II that a western state has legalized physicianassisted suicide or euthanasia. In the Netherlands, where euthanasia is permitted and practiced, it still remains illegal, although physicians are not prosecuted as long as they adhere to certain rules2.3 The Oregon Act constitutes a momentous change in social policy. We propose to delineate the important provisions and requirements of the Act and to evaluate potential problems.