Oregon made history in March 2022 by becoming the first state to repeal its residency requirements for medically assisted suicide after an advocacy group challenged them as being unconstitutional. This settlement opens medically assisted suicide in the state to all adults, regardless of their residency status, as long as they meet all the other requirements outlined in Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. While this law is controversial, a growing number of Americans feel that medically assisted suicide should be an option for terminally ill patients who want to preserve their quality of life and die without an extended period of suffering.
The Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Medical board agreed to stop enforcing the residency requirement as part of a settlement with Compassion & Choices, an advocacy group that brought the lawsuit challenging it.
“The requirement was both discriminatory and profoundly unfair to dying patients at the most critical time of their life,” argued attorney Compassion & Choices attorney Kevin Diaz.
While Oregon was the first state to allow medically assisted suicide, eleven other jurisdictions allow physicians to assist terminally ill patients in ending their lives. With the March 2022 settlement in Oregon, advocates will likely press these other localities to drop their residency requirements as well. In the future, medically assisted suicide could become a more accepted part of end-of-life planning for all Americans.
Making End-of-Life Decisions
While Oregon’s decision to stop enforcing their residency requirement for medically assisted suicide opens the procedure to a wider range of patients, it is important to note that this is not a decision that is taken lightly. Patients seeking assisted suicide must have less than 6 months to live and must make two verbal requests to their doctor for medication at least 15 days apart. They must also sign a written request in the presence of two witnesses. A physician must also confirm the patient’s terminal diagnosis and make a determination as to whether the patient is capable of making this decision on their own and that they are not being influenced by depression or other mental illness.
Is Medically Assisted Suicide Legal in Pennsylvania?
Under current Pennsylvania law, physicians can be charged with serious crimes, including murder, for prescribing lethal doses of medication to their patients under any circumstances. While this could change in the future, seeking medically assisted suicide in the state of Pennsylvania is prohibited by law. There are, however, some other important considerations that PA residents need to make regarding their medical care.
A living will is a written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment in situations where they are unable to express consent. If you should become sick or injured to a degree that you cannot physically or legally consent to life-extending treatments, your living will lets medical personnel know what level of treatment to provide. Appointing someone you trust to hold your power of attorney is another important consideration that needs to be made. In situations where you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to make medical and financial decisions on your own, the person holding your power of attorney can make them on your behalf. You can also appoint another person to become your legal guardian if you should be deemed incapable of managing your own affairs. If you don’t express your wishes on these matters in a legally binding way while you are capable of doing so, any number of other people could end up making these decisions for you, including the courts or family members who you don’t trust to act according to your wishes.
If you are a Pennsylvania resident interested in writing a living will, granting a power of attorney, or appointing a legal guardian, it is important that you speak with an elder care attorney right away. At Slutsky Elder Law, we have spent nearly 30 years as elder law attorneys in the Philadelphia, PA area, so you can trust us to give you the right advice in these matters. We have three different locations for your convenience, so visit our contact page to find the law office nearest you.