Measure 16 of 1994 established Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, which legalizes doctor assisted suicide with certain restrictions, making Oregon the first U.S. state and among the first jurisdictions in the world to do so. The measure was approved in the 8 November 1994 general election with 627,980 votes in favor, and 596,018 votes against.[1]

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The law

Under the law, a capable adult Oregon resident who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness by a physician may request in writing, from his or her physician, a prescription for a lethal dose of medication for the purpose of ending the patient's life. The request must be confirmed by two witnesses, one of whom cannot be related to the patient, be entitled to any portion of the patient's estate, be the patient's physician, or be an employee of a health care facility caring for the patient. After the request is made, another physician must examine the patient's medical records and cofirm the diagnosis. The patient must be determined to not suffer from a mental condition impairing judgment. If the request is authorized, the patient must wait at least fifteen days and make a second oral request before the prescription may be written. The patient has a right to rescind the request at any time.

The law protects doctors from liability for participating in assisted suicide. Furthermore, no doctor is required to participate. Also, the law specifies that a patient's decision to end his or her life shall not "have an effect upon a life, health, or accident insurance or annuity policy."

Controversy and aftermath

Measure 16 is reguarded as one of the most controversial ballot measures in Oregon's history. In addition to the standard arguments, opponents also feared that terminally ill people throughout the nation would flock to Oregon to take advantage of the law.

Despite the measure's passage, implementation was tied up in the courts for several years. Furthermore, Oregon's legislature tried to repeal the law, sending Measure 51 to the people in 1997; the measure failed by a larger margin than the margin by which Measure 16 passed. Some members of Congress tried to block implementation of Measure 16, but failed. In 2003, a federal judge blocked a move by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to suspend federal drug-dispensing licenses of doctors who prescribed life-ending medications under the Oregon law.[1]

At least 129 people have committed sucide under the law through 2002.[1]

See also: List of Oregon ballot measures

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