Oregon's experience: Evaluating the record

American Journal of Bioethics 9 (3):19 – 27 (2009)
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Abstract

Prior to passage of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, opponents of assistance in dying argued that legalization would have serious harmful consequences. Specifically, they argued that the quality and availability of palliative care would decline, that the harms of legalization would affect certain vulnerable groups disproportionately, that legal assisted dying could not be confined to the competent terminally ill who voluntarily request assistance, and that the practice would result in frequent abuses. Data from Oregon's decade-long experience decisively refute the first three predictions. As to abuses, the record is not quite as clear, but if an appropriate framework for analysis is utilized, the most reasonable conclusion is that the risks of abuse do not outweigh the benefits of legalization. To the extent projected harmful consequences are relevant to the debate over legalization, Oregon's experience argues in favor of legalization of assistance in dying.

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Ronald Lindsay
Georgetown University