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Seventeen years of assisted dying: Evidence from the USA

Assisted dying for terminally ill adults was legalised in Oregon in 1997. Evidence demonstrates that it is working safely; it prevents unnecessary suffering at the end of life and provides dying adults with the choice to control their death, if that is their wish. There have been no cases of abuse or calls to extend the law.

I’ve referenced the Oregon example regularly to address questions and worries of the proposed Bill in the UK. It is therefore very positive to note that partly as a consequence of the safe working of the Oregon law, in 2008 citizens in the neighbouring Washington State voted in an assisted dying law via a referendum, and in 2013 Vermont introduced a law allowing terminally ill people the choice of an assisted death.

Seventeen years of Assisted Dying: Evidence from the USA
Assisted Dying in the USA: the law has operated safely in Oregon for over 17 years and in Washington since 2008.

For more details on the legislation in Oregon, please visit our dedicated page which outlines the law and its impact in more detail.


The Assisted Dying Bill

It is clear that the Oregon model of assisted dying offers choice to dying patients. Fears of vast numbers of people seeking assistance to die, vulnerable people being assisted to die and a widening of the law – have not been borne out by 17 years of practice. In fact, many more people take comfort from knowing the choice is available than actually go on to have an assisted death. I think this is an important bit of evidence to highlight and one that is often overlooked by those who oppose the Bill.

The model proposed in Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill for England and Wales is firmly rooted in evidence from this practice. A change in the law would permit a doctor to prescribe life-ending medication to a dying adult patient, at that patient’s request, if they and a second independent doctor were satisfied that the patient had:

  • The mental capacity to make a decision to end their own life.
  • A terminal illness, with a prognosis of six months or less.
  • A clear and settled intention to end their own life which had been reached voluntarily.

Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill would result in fewer dying adults facing unnecessary suffering at the end of their lives and would give dying adults peace of mind that the choice is available for them in their final months and weeks of life, should they need it. No more people will die as a result of a change in the law, but fewer people will suffer.

If you would like to support Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, please email your leaders and add your voice to our campaign.