'Death tourism': Oregon becomes national destination for assisted suicide

"You end up in this Wild West scenario where people take the drugs back to their home states, and there are a lot more questions than there are answers about what would happen after that."

Joshua Young North Carolina

Individuals residing in states that outlaw euthanasia, such as Texas, have started traveling to Oregon to gain assistance in their suicide, making the state the first "death tourism" destination in the US.

According to the Daily Mail, Dr. Nicholas Gideonse, the director of End of Life Choices Oregon, recently admitted to assisting a man from Texas with Lou Gehrig's disease who came to the doctor's Portland clinic in achieving suicide and said that "for a small number of patients who otherwise qualify or are determined to go through that and who have the energy and the resources … it has started to happen."

According to Oregon's official website, the state passed its Death with Dignity Act in 1997, "which allows terminally ill individuals to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose." The law enabled terminally ill patients expected to die within six months to request fatal drugs from doctors that the patient then takes and self-administers. In 2021, 238 people committed suicide via the program, and 383 doses of fatal drugs were prescribed by doctors.

There was originally a restriction for people out-of-state but in 2021 Dr. Gideonse sued Oregon to lift the restriction, which was granted in 2022.

Currently, if a resident from another state wants to go to Oregon for the fatal drugs, they are placed on a 15-day waiting period. In that time paperwork is processed and two doctors along with witnesses must sign off on the request for suicide by prescription. The expansion of Death with Dignity to out-of-staters is not yet law in Oregon but is expected to be codified this year with House Bill 2279.

The law resembles Canada's state-sponsored euthanasia program known as medical assistance in dying (MAiD), originally intended for those with physical illnesses where death was a reasonable inevitability although it has been amended to allow those with mental health issues to apply. 

Dr. Gideonse's original lawsuit was over neighboring residents of Washington who wanted suicide drugs and has expanded to residents from further states, including those with strict laws against euthanasia. 

The executive director of the Patients Rights Action Fund, a group pushing back against Oregon's law, Matt Vallière, said "You end up in this Wild West scenario where people take the drugs back to their home states, and there are a lot more questions than there are answers about what would happen after that."

Dr. Gideonse, who also has campaigned for legalizing psilocybin to treat depression, has connections with the Compassion & Choices group which "grew out of the 1980s right-to-die movement of the Hemlock Society and Jack Kevorkian — the pathologist and notorious 'Dr Death' who assisted scores of suicides and was ultimately convicted of murder," reports the Daily Mail.

President of Not Dead Yet, Diane Coleman, said, "Many view these laws as a danger to people with serious illnesses, chronic conditions and significant disabilities in our cost-conscious healthcare system."


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