Pioneering Death with Dignity in Oregon
Courtney S. Campbell, Hundere Professor of Religion and Culture, Oregon State University
In 1994, Oregon became the first U.S. state to legalize physician-assisted death, that is, a process by which a physician is permitted to write or supply a life-ending prescription for a terminally ill patient to hasten their death. The Oregon law has become a model for numerous other states in passage of such laws; at the same time, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act reveals some distinctive features about Oregon’s cultural landscape for health care, and its intersection with medical professionalism and religious communities. This workshop will use some interactive case examples developed for public discourse on this issue to (1) provide an overview of the Oregon law; (2) identify the cultural, professional, and religious factors that facilitated its passage, and (3) examine the dynamics of physician and patient participation over the past 25 years. As over 90% of the patients who use the Act to end their lives are enrolled in hospice care, we will also (4) consider the implications of this practice for hospice philosophy and missions. We will (5) examine the religious arguments brought to bear in opposition to land in support of legalized medical assistance in death.