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Champion of Oregon's 'Death With Dignity Act' Uses Law to End Own Life

My ill-informed impression following the uproar and various prosecutions that followed Dr. Jack Kevorkian during his life was that physician-assisted suicide is illegal throughout the United States. It turns out that is not true at all, as I learned today that physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in three states. Who knew?

According to The Associated Press, Oregon actually passed the "Death With Dignity Act" way back in 1994, allowing "terminally ill patients to take their own lives with the help of lethal medications supplied by a doctor." Washington and Montana have also adopted similar legislation. has an interesting analysis of the laws governing physician-assisted suicide. Beyond the three states noted above, ProCon notes, the law breaks down as follows:

  • 36 states have specific laws prohibiting all assisted suicides;

  • Seven states prohibit all assisted suicides under common law; and 

  • Four states (and the District of Columbia) have no specific laws regarding assisted suicide, and do not recognize common law in regard to assisted suicide. reports that there is no specific federal law regarding assisted suicide. 

The subject of physician-assisted suicide was in the news today because one of the champions of Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, Dr. Peter Goodwin, died over the weekend at the age of 83 "after using lethal chemicals obtained under the Oregon law." After living with a rare brain disorder since 2006, Goodwin elected to go out just as he had promised he would years ago if he ever received a terminal diagnosis. "I don't want to go out with a whimper. I want to say goodbye to my kids and my wife with dignity. And I would end it," he said in an interview well before his diagnosis. 

Posted by Bruce Carton on March 14, 2012 at 04:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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