New legislation in Oregon shortens an initial waiting period for some persons seeking assisted suicide, allowing them to receive quicker access to life-ending drugs.
Governor Kate Brown signed SB 579 into law July 23. The bill had passed the Senate in May and the House of Representatives in June.
If the terminally ill patient has fewer than 15 days to live, the legislation will bypass a 15-day delay required under the Death with Dignity Act. The waiting period usually takes place between the first verbal request and second written request for assisted suicide.
“By signing this bill, Governor Kate Brown shirked her duty to protect Oregon's citizens," Oregon Right to Life executive director Lois Anderson said July 25. “Oregon's 'Death with Dignity' law already lacks important safeguards to protect vulnerable Oregonians. Removing one of the only safeguards that does exist is both unnecessary and incredibly ill-advised.”
The legislation was sponsored by members of the Democratic Party, including Senator Floyd Prozanski, Representative Mitch Greenlick, and Senator Elizabeth Hayward.
During the floor debate last month, Republican Representative Duane Stark expressed concern over the new law. He said it will remove a safeguard designed to ensure the patients confidence in their decision.
"I don't want to make it any easier for any individual in any circumstance to take their life prematurely," said Stark, according to the AP.
The bill was also opposed by two Democrat Senators - Peter Courtney and Sara Gelser.
Anderson had applauded their decision, noting that the problem extends beyond the lines of political parties.
“It is dangerous to assume that the political party someone belongs to is universally right or universally wrong,” said Anderson in May. “Senators Peter Courtney and Sara Gelser avoided group-think today and voted with their constituents’ safety in mind.”
“Every person has a right to be valued and treated ethically, especially during their last days of life,” she said. “Persons near death deserve the same protections under the law. Even more, they deserve proper care, compassion and confirmation of their inherent value, not a deadly prescription.”
In 1997 Oregon was the first US state to pass an assisted suicide law, which was later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006. Since its enactment, 1,500 people in the sate have died by assisted suicide.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on medically assisted dying in 2011. It stated that palliative care is better suited for the dignity of the human person.
“Catholics should be leaders in the effort to defend and uphold the principle that each of us has a right to live with dignity through every day of our lives. As disciples of one who is Lord of the living, we need to be messengers of the Gospel of Life,” the statement reads.
“We deserve to grow old in a society that views our cares and needs with a compassion grounded in respect, offering genuine support in our final days. The choices we make together now will decide whether this is the kind of caring society we will leave to future generations. We can help build a world in which love is stronger than death.”