College Paper

Assisted Suicide

In 1997, Oregon became the only state allowing legal physician-assisted suicide (PAS). Although physician-assisted suicide has been legal in Oregon for four years, it remains highly controversial. PAS is when a doctor prescribes their patient to medication which would kill them. Patients must pass certain requirements in order to request a prescription for lethal medication. The patient must be 18 years or older, a resident of Oregon, able to make health care decisions, and diagnosed with a terminal illness that would lead to death within six months. After meeting these requirements patients are able to request a prescription for lethal medication from a licensed Oregon physician. To receive a prescription for lethal medication, the following steps must be completed:
•     The patient must make two oral requests to their physician, separated by at least 15 days.
•     The patient must provide a written request to their physician, signed with two witnesses present.
•     The doctor who prescribes the patient and another physician must confirm the diagnosis and prognosis.
•     If either physician believes the patient's judgment is impaired by a psychiatric or psychological disorder, the patient must take a psychological examination.
•     The physician must inform the patient of alternatives to assisted suicide. Such as comfort care, hospital care, and pain management.

During 1998, 1999 and 2000, approximately 16, 27, and 27 patients used PAS. Patients who died by PAS were more educated than other Oregonians who did not choose to commit suicide and had similar illnesses. All the medications prescribed are barbiturates. A physician or anyone else can not directly administer medication to end another's life. In 2001, 44 doctors prescribed 33 patients to a medication that would end their life. In comparison, 39 prescriptions were written in 2000, 33 in 1999 and 24 in 1998. Although the number of prescriptions written for...