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City Club of Eugene: Oregon's Death with Dignity Law, The Theory and the Practice

Recorded on: October 28, 2016

Air Date: October 31, 2016

Coordinator: Joel Korin

In 1998, Oregon became the first state in the nation to enact a Death with Dignity law, allowing physician-assisted suicide. The law’s use has steadily increased since then. In 2013, approximately 130 prescriptions were written, and about 70 were used to end life.

Washington State, Vermont, Montana, and New Mexico now have similar legislation. Compassion and Choices, a nonprofit that works to improve care and expand options at the end of life, worked tirelessly to get the law passed in California; California’s act became law on June 6, 2016. Canada is considering nationwide legislation.

Although mainly perceived as something for older people with terminal illnesses, the impact of the law is much broader. Recently, Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old with stage 4 brain cancer, moved into Oregon, established residency, qualified for a prescription, and picked the date of her death.

Matt Whitaker will discuss the history and the use of the Oregon law, along with the status of Death with Dignity legislation around the country. He will also describe some of the proposals to change the requirements of the statute. Matt most recently served as Compassion & Choices Oregon State Director before stepping into a new role as a Multi-State Implementation Manager. He has spoken at numerous conferences on bioethics and person-centered care across the country and testified as an expert resource on end-of-life choice to numerous legislative committees. Matt is a board certified music therapist with clinical experience in long-term acute care and geriatrics and a passion for improving end-of-life care through patient empowerment and education. A Georgia native, Matt is a graduate of the University of Georgia and a graduate student in Integrative Theology at the Twin Cities School of Theology.

Marilyn Milne, a longtime Eugene resident and native Oregonian, will talk about how the Oregon law works in practice. She will tell of her experiences in dealing with the process last year while helping her mother, who chose Death with Dignity. She will also discuss how families can plan for the possibility of using the law. Marilyn is a public relations consultant and has been a City Club of Eugene member since 1998.

copyright, KLCC 2016

Born and raised in Eugene, Anni started at KLCC in 2000 as a reporter and co-host of Northwest Passage. After graduating from the University of Oregon, Anni moved to New York City. She worked in education for several years before returning to her true love, journalism. Anni co-founded and co-hosted Dailysonic, a narrative-based news podcast. She interned at WNYC's On The Media, then becoming WNYC's assistant producer of Morning Edition.