Hospice & Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act
“The Oregon Hospice and Palliative Care Association supports the rights of Oregonians to choose or not to choose any and all legal end-of-life options, and supports hospice and palliative care programs in development of their own policies around the Oregon Death With Dignity Act and Physician-Assisted Death (PAD).” (Position adopted by OHPCA Board of Directors April 21, 2017)
Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act went into effect in 1997. It no longer matters whether physician-assisted dying should or should not be permitted. It is a legal option in Oregon. Oregonians need not choose between hospice and physician-aid in dying. Dying Oregonians can choose both from among the options on the end-of-life continuum of care.
Every hospice patient interested in obtaining a prescription to end their life under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act receives a psychosocial assessment and is monitored throughout for mental health issues. Those individuals with mental health issues are screened out and do not qualify for a prescription in the first place. Those who use their prescription are those who present themselves as capable of making health care decisions from the beginning and remain so.
A prescription for life-ending medication should not be the option of first choice for relieving fears or pain or symptoms of a terminal illness. A hospice should never deny a person its services because he or she has asked a doctor for a prescription, even when the hospice intends to exercise its right to not be involved.
Hospices are uniquely qualified to address the needs of the dying and the Oregon Hospice & Palliative Care Association strongly recommends that a person be enrolled in hospice for comfort care during the required waiting period, if they are not already a hospice patient.
Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act allows competent adult Oregonians with a life expectancy of six months to ask their physician for a prescription of life-ending medication. The Act requires a second opinion, two oral and one written requests, and a 15-day waiting period. It requires that the person be fully informed about “feasible alternatives, including, but not limited to, comfort care, hospice, and pain control”, as well as diagnosis, prognosis, risks, and results. A request can be canceled at any time. Any physician, or other health care provider, can refuse to participate. The law protects physicians from legal liability and professional disciplinary action. The law does not authorize lethal injection or euthanasia.
Visit End of Life Choices Oregon for information about Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act. Visit Oregon Health Authority for statistical information about Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act.