WASHINGTON (CNS) — The National Right to Life Committee March 30 denounced Oregon’s decision to drop residency requirements that were part of its physician-assisted suicide law.
The Philadelphia-based Catholic Medical Association also condemned the move, which came in response to a lawsuit seeking to remove the enforcement of the residency rules.
“In the push to legalize assisted suicide laws here in the United States, proponents argue that there are so-called safeguards in place,” said Jennifer Popik, director of National Right to Life’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics, in a statement. “Not only are these so-called safeguards totally inadequate, but they are regularly followed by efforts to remove them.”
“Removing the residency requirement from Oregon’s so called Death With Dignity Act further undermines the dignity and sanctity of life,” said the Catholic Medical Association’s president, Dr. Craig Treptow, in an April 4 statement. “Inviting people from across state lines to come to Oregon to end their lives is not aligned with good medical care.”
An Oregon government website on the Death With Dignity Act spelled out what had been the residency requirement prior to the lawsuit’s resolution.
“A patient must be a current Oregon resident. The law does not require a patient to have lived in Oregon for any minimum length of time. However, a patient must provide proof of residency to the attending physician,” the website said.
“Forms of proof include, but are not limited to: an Oregon driver license, a lease agreement or property ownership document showing that the patient rents or owns property in Oregon, an Oregon voter registration, or a recent Oregon tax return,” it added. “It is up to the attending physician to determine if the patient has adequately established residency.”
Laura Echevarria, NRLC director of communications and press secretary, lambasted the ease with which someone can ask for life-ending drugs because it is cheaper than life-sustaining treatment.
“Oregon’s February 2019 report on its assisted suicide law showed that the terminal diseases that qualified some patients for the lethal overdose included diabetes and arthritis. These are not terminal conditions,” she said in an April 4 statement.
“In California, when a woman’s insurance company would not cover her prescribed chemotherapy treatment, she inquired if assisted suicide was covered under her plan,” Echevarria said. “She was told, ‘Yes, we do provide that to our patients, and you would only have to pay $1.20 for the medication.'”
In 2021, 383 people received prescriptions for lethal doses of medications, compared to 373 reported during 2020, according to Oregon. As of January 21, 2022, the state had received reports of 238 people who died during 2021 from ingesting the medications prescribed under the law, down from 259 in 2020.
Since the Death With Dignity Act became law in 1997, 3,280 people have received the assisted-suicide prescriptions, and 2,159 people, or 66%, have died from ingesting the medications, the state said, adding that during 2021, assisted-suicide deaths accounted for an estimated 0.59% of total deaths in Oregon.
A physician’s role is not to abandon a patient at the end of their life, but to “caringly walk with the patient through that uncertainty, alleviating suffering, while providing every opportunity for meaningful living as one prepares for death,” said a statement from Dr. Greg Burke, co-chair of Ethics Committee of the Catholic Medical Association, which counts 2,400 “health care professionals” in 115 local guilds among its membership.