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Slippery Slope Concerns

Every month, Compassion & Choices Medical Director, Dr. David Grube, answers frequently asked questions about medical aid in dying. 

Q: Isn’t medical aid in dying a slippery slope to euthanasia as it is practiced in Belgium and the Netherlands?

A: The concept of a slippery slope implies that, over time, the statutory guidelines for medical aid in dying will be either liberalized by elected officials or disregarded with impunity by practitioners. Both assumptions are incorrect. Since Oregon’s law took effect in 1997, there has been no attempt to broaden the scope of the law and no physician has been disciplined for practicing outside the scope of the law. Almost two decades of rigorously observed and documented experience in Oregon demonstrates that the law has worked as intended with no evidence of abuse.

Slippery slope claims with regard to European countries are also misapplied. “Euthanasia” laws in Belgium and the Netherlands, for example, are less restrictive than American laws, but did not “slide” to their current form. Rather, the individual laws were developed with guidelines that differ from Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act (e.g. no self-administration requirement) in place from the law’s conception. While anecdotal stories of abuse of “euthanasia” laws abound, research indicates that cancer accounts for more than 70% of all cases of “euthanasia” in both Belgium and the Netherlands.