Death With Dignity Waiting Period Could Be Shortened In Some Cases

May 20, 2019

Some terminally ill patients could bypass the 15-day waiting period for the Death With Dignity Act under a bill approved Monday in the Oregon Senate.

To use the Death With Dignity Act, patients must have a diagnosis of less than six months to live. They have to make two requests for the deadly prescription drugs…and those requests have to come at least 15 days apart.

The rotunda of the Oregon capitol in Salem.
Credit Chris Lehman / KLCC

Senate Bill 579 would eliminate the 15-day waiting period, but only for people whose doctors say they have less than 15 days to live. Sen. James Manning, D-Eugene said it’s about giving terminally ill people another option. “And the thing about is, it’s a choice," he said. "They can choose to use it, or not.”

Opponents said doctors aren’t always right when it comes to diagnosing how long a patient has left to live. The bill narrowly passed the Senate, 16-11. All Republicans present voted against the measure, as did two Democrats: Sen. Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis. The bill now heads to the Oregon House.

Meanwhile, a separate bill that would have expanded the ways that a patient could self-administer their deadly prescription has been placed on indefinite hold.

Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee that was scheduled to vote on the measure. He cancelled the vote when he said it was clear that not enough lawmakers supported House Bill 2217 for it to move forward. He said he would be willing to help facilitate a work group of interested parties during the interim if advocates for the bill want to try again in an upcoming legislative session.