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Lund Report: Changes to Death With Dignity Act Stalled by Lack of Support

But Rep, Jim Weidner, who sponsored the legislation, intends to seek bipartisan support during the interim
By: Amanda Waldroupe

April 11, 2011 — A bill backed by nine House Republicans undermining Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act will not move forward this legislative session, acknowledged its chief sponsor Rep. Jim Weidner (R-Yamhill).

It would have prohibited a physician from giving a terminally ill person life-ending medication unless they had undergone counseling by a psychiatrist or a psychologist who had determined that the person was able to make an informed decision and did not suffer from depression or a psychological disorder. The professional would have had to report this information to the Oregon Health Authority.

Advocates say the legislation (House Bill 2016) would undermine Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act by implicitly assuming that terminally ill persons seeking physician-assisted suicide suffer from mental illnesses.

“The Oregon law is not about mental illness. It’s about the ability to make a good healthcare decision,” said Jason Renaud, executive director of Compassion & Choices of Oregon. “This is a barrier to individual choice.”

He also said the legislation is redundant.

“Two Oregon physicians are already required to certify that eligible patients exhibit no signs of depression or psychological disorder causing impaired judgment,” Renaud said. “No patient with impaired judgment has taken life-ending medication under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.”

Compassion & Choices of Oregon has launched a campaign to rally supporters of physician-assisted suicide. More than 1,000 people had responded, Renaud said.

“This is in their portfolio of legal rights, and they’re not willing to go back to past times and let people dictate what you can and can’t do,” Renaud said.

Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland), who co-chairs the House Health Care, refused to give the bill a hearing, but did not say why.

However, Weidner doesn’t intend to give up. “This bill will be worked during the interim to find some bi-partisan collaborative solutions,” he told The Lund Report through email, but did not provide further comment.

The Death with Dignity Act passed the Legislature in 1994, and was reaffirmed by over 60 percent of voters in 1997 during a referendum.