The nation’s first Death with Dignity Act, which authorizes the practice of medical aid in dying, co-authored by Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, was affirmed by an Oregon ballot initiative in 1994. Barbara was the chief spokesperson for this monumental law through two statewide campaigns, in 1994 and 1997.
In 2019, in response to the evidence compiled over 21 years of practice, the Oregon legislature amended its law in an attempt to find a better balance between safeguards intended to protect patients and access to medical aid in dying.In 2019, Governor Kate Brown signed SB 579 into law. The amended law gives doctors the ability to waive the current mandatory minimum 15-day waiting period between the two required oral requests and to waive the 48-hour waiting period after the required written request before the prescription can be provided, if the terminally ill person is not expected to live through the period. SB 579 went into effect on January 1, 2020. Compassion & Choices testified in support of this bill.
In 2021, Compassion & Choices filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Dr. Nicholas Gideonse that challenged the constitutionality of the residency restriction contained in Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.
On March 28, 2022, Dr. Gideonse and the State of Oregon defendants reached a settlement in the case. As a result of this settlement, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Oregon Medical Board, and the Multnomah County District Attorney have all agreed not to enforce the residency restriction. Further, the OHA has also agreed to initiate a legislative request to permanently remove the residency restriction from the law.
The settlement requires Oregon officials to 1) issue directives halting enforcement of the unconstitutional residency provision of the law, and 2) initiate a legislative request to permanently remove the residency language from the law.
More information on how this impacts access to medical aid in dying can be found here.Compassion & Choices continues to work in Oregon to ensure that all Oregonians have access to the full range of legal end of life care options, including accessing medical aid in dying and pre-claiming your voice in advance of a dementia diagnosis.
- Attend an Event in Oregon: Participate in virtual activities related to medical aid in dying and advance care planning.
- Volunteer With Us: Join other passionate and dedicated individuals to work to re-enact legislation that improves care and expands end-of-life choice.
- Follow us on Facebook.
Education & Outreach
The Oregon Access Campaign continues the work of normalizing medical aid in dying in medical systems across the state. After more than a year of meetings and educational outreach, in January 2018 Legacy Health, one of the largest health providers in the state, instituted a policy that would reverse the system’s 20 year prohibition of physician participation in medical aid in dying. Compassion & Choices partnered with staff there to draft the policy and to provide education.
Compassion & Choices Medical Director Dr. David Grube has also been active in promoting education across the state, providing in-service training to hospice workers, giving medical aid-in-dying presentations to medical and nursing students and serving as the keynote speaker at the most recent Oregon State University Gerontology Conference regarding compassionate care at the end of life.
Tools and Resources
For Patients Learn whether you are eligible for the Oregon Death With Dignity Act.
End-of-Life Planning Use our step-by-step guide to chart your journey.
Recursos en Español Recursos en Español.
COVID-19 Toolkit Get answers to your questions about COVID-19 and end of life care.
Resources for Providers Find resources tailored to the needs of healthcare providers.
Dementia Values & Priorities Tool Use our tool to document your preferences to make sure you get the care you want.
What’s Happening Now in Oregon
Following passage of the law, opponents immediately attempted to invalidate the law through the courts in two court cases – Lee v. Oregon and Gonzales v. Oregon. Compassion & Choices predecessor organization, Compassion & Dying, intervened in both cases, which we eventually won, paving the way for the implementation of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act and the end-of-life options movement.