Oregon sees highest assisted-suicide toll ever; Washington law begins

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) — Oregon’s annual report on assisted suicide showed that doctors helped 60 patients take their lives in 2008. That marked the highest annual total since the Oregon Death With Dignity Act went into effect 11 years ago. In all, 401 Oregonians have died by the legal lethal prescriptions, which are legal only for those judged to have six months or less to live. State health officials said nearly all the patients were older, suffered from cancer and died at home.

Just north of Oregon, health officials in Washington state have filed rules to guide that state’s new assisted-suicide law. The law — which closely resembles Oregon’s — took effect March 5. It protects doctors from prosecution if they help terminally ill patients hasten their deaths.

The new rules include the forms doctors must complete before the deaths as well as documents for secondary doctors, psychologists and the pharmacists who fill the lethal prescription. As in Oregon, the rules say the patients must be expected to die within six months and may take the drugs themselves.

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