Senate Bill 579, which would allow doctors to make an exception to the waiting period requirements if the patient is not expected to live through the 15 day wait, went into effect January 1, 2020.
- Oregon’s state House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 579 with a vote of 35-22 on Tuesday, June 1.
- Compassion & Choices testified in support of SB 579, which passed the Senate and was heard by the state House of Representatives Rules Committee on June 5.
- On April 5, 2019, Compassion & Choices testified in support of Senate Bill 579, which would allow doctors to make an exception to the waiting period requirements if the patient is not expected to live through the 15 day wait.
- Governor Kate Brown signed SB 579 into law. This marks the first time legislators amended a medical aid-in-dying law to reduce barriers to access to this compassionate option.
Compassion & Choices, and our predecessor organization Compassion & Dying, led successful efforts to ensure the law was properly implemented, which has resulted in dozens of health systems adopting supportive policies and thousands of Oregonians being able to access the law without a single incidence of proven abuse or coercion. Until 2019 the law remained unchanged.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft directed agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency that Oregon physicians prescribing within the Oregon law would violate federal law. Compassion & Choices joined the state of Oregon and sued Ashcroft and his successor Alberto Gonzales. The Supreme Court’s decision in Oregon v. Gonzales again affirmed the Oregon law in 2006.
The second challenge to the law came in 2001 when the U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft directs agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency that Oregon physicians prescribing within the Oregon law was in violation of federal law. Compassion & Choices’ predecessor organization, Compassion & Dying, joined the state of Oregon and sued Ashcroft and his successor Alberto Gonzales, in Oregon v. Gonzales.
- The Oregon Repeal of “Death with Dignity” Act, also known as Measure 51, was on the November 4, 1997 ballot in Oregon as a legislatively referred state statute, where it was defeated. The measure would have repealed a law allowing terminally ill adults to obtain physician’s prescription for lethal drugs.
- October 27, 1997, Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act was officially implemented. Compassion in Dying (the predecessor to Compassion & Choices) client “Helen” was the first person to access medical aid in dying in the United States.
- Implementation of the law was temporarily halted as the case made its way through the courts. In February 1997, the appellate court dismissed the case.
Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act was affirmed by ballot initiative in 1994 by 51% of voters. Oregon legislators, believing voters had erred, put a repeal before them in 1997, which voters rejected by almost 60%.
After the passing of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act in 1994, Lee v. Oregon was the first challenge to medical aid in dying, not only in Oregon, but in the United States. Defendants were joined by Defendant-Intervenors, who included Compassion & Choices’ President, Barbara Coombs Lee, all of whom presented arguments showing that Plaintiffs claims were baseless and the case was without standing.
Oregon Right to Die, a political action committee founded in 1993, wrote and subsequently passed the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee co-authored Oregon’s pioneering law. She, with Dr. Peter Goodwin and Elvin Sinnard, were the “chief petitioners” of the Act.