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Opponents of End-of-Life Choice Attempt to Block Patient Access to Aid in Dying

HB 2016 is NOT Needed to Ensure the Safety of Aid in Dying in Oregon

PORTLAND, OR – Compassion & Choice and Compassion & Choices of Oregon today announced their strong opposition to Oregon House Bill 2016.

The measure would overturn a crucial provision of the voter-passed Death with Dignity Act. Currently the law allows patients with a terminal illness the right to request aid in dying from their physician without an automatic presumption of mental illness and mental incapacity.

“House Bill 2016 is not needed to ensure the safety of aid in dying in Oregon. Two Oregon physicians are already required to certify that eligible patients exhibit no signs of depression or psychological disorder causing impaired judgment,” said Jason Renaud, Executive Director of Compassion & Choices of Oregon. “No
patient with impaired judgment has taken life-ending medication under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.”

The Death with Dignity Act states that deaths under the Act do not constitute “suicide.” Therefore, a request does not indicate mental illness and “suicidal ideation.” The Death with Dignity Act passed in 1997 with over 60% of the vote, and this bill would undermine the will of the people.

“HB 2016 is designed to burden patients and physicians with needless procedures and bureaucratic paperwork. The sponsors seek to erect barriers to access the Death with Dignity Act,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices. “Patients dying in rural areas, in particular, would be unable to travel great distances to undergo redundant and needless additional mental evaluations.”

It is insulting and abusive to persons dying of cancer and leukemia to assume they are irrational in seeking the choice of aid in dying. Rather than a sign of mental illness, the desire for a peaceful and dignified death is almost universal. This bill would prevent dying patients, especially those in rural areas or who are already in the final stages of dying, from accessing aid in dying. Thirteen years of closely studied experience with the Oregon Death With Dignity Act prove the practice is safe. Two doctors must already certify the patient is mentally competent to make end-of-life medical decisions. Every scientific study validates Oregon’s safe aid-in-dying practice, consistent with the careful guidelines and safeguards of the law.

The law assures mental competence and protects against impaired judgment. House Bill 2016 is simply an attempt by extremist opponents to block Oregonians with a terminal illness from using a law the people of Oregon passed twice. This bill discriminates against Oregonians with a terminal illness, as it requires them to surmount additional obstacles not required of mentally competent adults making other important medical decisions.

For more information please visit http://www.compassionoforegon.org/