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Oregon removes residency requirement for assisted suicide

Oregon, the first American state to legalise physician-assisted suicide, has removed the requirement that patients seeking to be euthanised be residents of the state. The Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Medical Board agreed to voluntarily stop enforcing the residency requirement in order to settle a lawsuit brought against the state by a national group that advocates for greater access to assisted suicide.

Lawyers for Compassion and Choices described the residency requirement as “both discriminatory and profoundly unfair to dying patients,” but critics have said the move will see Oregon becomes ‘America’s Switzerland,’ a reference to the practice of ‘suicide tourism’ – foreigners visiting Switzerland purely to gain access to assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide became legal in Oregon in 1997 following the introduction of the Death with Dignity Act. Between then and 2019 2,159 people died after ingesting a lethal dose of medication provided to them by a doctor. The median age of those who died was 73, although 12 cases of a patient between 18-34 are noted in a 2021 review of the Act carried out by Oregon’s Health Authority. That review found that 48% of those who choose to commit suicide said they were concerned their continued life would be a ‘burden on family, friends/caregivers,’ and another 5% said they were concerned with the ‘financial implications of continued treatment.’

It is still a requirement in Oregon that those seeking to be euthanasia are: over 18; of sound mind; and to have been diagnosed with a terminal illness that is likely to lead to death within 6 months.

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