Oregon legislators are currently considering two bills that would radically expand the state’s physician-assisted suicide laws. House Bill 2217 would allow patients to take lethal medication through self-injection, while Senate Bill 579 eliminates waiting periods required for those who wish to end their lives.
Currently, patients wishing to end their lives must ingest lethal medication through pills or a feeding tube. HB 2217 is meant to accommodate those patients who wish to commit suicide but are too weak or ill to self-administer pills, by allowing the medication to be provided via syringe or IV. As proposed, the bill would further blur the lines between suicide and euthanasia, since health care providers would be required to help a patient load the syringe with deadly medicine or insert a needle in their arm, thereby becoming more active participants in the act of suicide.
“Oregon’s Death with Dignity law carves patients away from the health care delivery system when they want to commit suicide and doesn’t make us complicitly involved with this,” Dr. Bud Pierce, a Salem oncologist told the Bend Bulletin. “This bill makes us actors in the death of patients. I think it’s morally wrong for physicians to kill their patients.”
Opponents of the bill warn that it would make it easier for doctors to administer lethal medications without a patient’s knowledge or consent. “The problem with this setup is that very easily, another person could administer the drugs without the patient having any knowledge of what is going on,” said Dr. Kenneth Stevens, a radiation oncologist.
While pro-life groups like Oregon Right to Life are vehemently opposed to this bill, it is also seeing opposition from some other surprising fronts, including Death with Dignity National Center and Compassion & Choices, two groups which advocate for physician-assisted suicide.
“I can’t imagine that we want to risk botched deaths because we have allowed a law that would have patients administering medications through equipment they have no training to use. This is a risky proposition. The law, as written, does not protect patients from those risks,” wrote Sam DeWitt, Oregon Access Campaign Manager of Compassion & Choices.
HB 2217 is currently pending in the state Senate.
The state’s Senators pushed through another radical bill Monday, passing SB 579 with a 16-11 vote. That bill eliminates waiting periods for those wishing to commit suicide if a physician determines that the patient would die before the waiting period is up. These waiting periods are designed to prevent abuse and same-day suicides.
“What is most alarming about SB 579 is that it permits on demand, same-day assisted suicide for people who are in a very fragile state of mind,” said Lois Anderson, ORTL executive director. “Every person has a right to be valued and treated ethically, especially during their last days of life. These people deserve the same protections under the law.”
SB 579 next goes to the House of Representatives.
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