Oregon Rules for assisted suicide

The Oregon rules for assisted suicide

These are the rules passed by the state of Oregon for legalising euthanasia in 1998. Should we have something similar in the UK? Evaluate these rules from different ethical perspectives (Kantian, Natural Law, Utilitarian).

The US state of Oregon legalised physician assisted suicide in 1998. During the first three years only around two people a month used this to end their lives. This was partly because of the severe conditions that had to be satisfied before a request for euthanasia could be granted:

  • patient must be resident in Oregon
  • patient must be aged over 18
  • patient must make two oral and one written request for euthanasia
  • there must be at least 15 days between the first and the last request
  • patient must be terminally ill with a life expectancy of less than 6 months
  • this prognosis must be confirmed by a second consultant physician
  • both doctors must confirm that the patient is capable of making this decision
  • both doctors must confirm that the patient does not have medical condition that impairs their judgement
  • patient must self-administer the lethal medication

About 30% of patients who started the process between 1998-2001 died before it was completed. 19 decided not to use the lethal medication when offered it. One survey showed that 45% of patients who were given good palliative care changed their mind about euthanasia. Another reason for the low take-up was the difficulty of finding a doctor who would go along with the request: The Oregon Health Division reported that only a fifth of physicians of control patients dying of similar terminal illnesses would have prescribed a lethal medication if asked.

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