Court allows assisted suicide in Oregon

The Supreme Court recently ruled that federal drug laws could not be used to punish doctors, who under the Death With Dignity Act in Oregon, condone assisted suicide.

The Oregon Act was initially passed, despite much opposition.

After a series of battles with votes and the court system, the law was officially passed and Oregon became the first state to legalize assisted suicide.

Some Medical practicioners saaid they feel the doctors who actively and openly support the assisted suicide law to be punished.

“I think it is unethical and immoral,” said nurse practitioner Sandra French-Rose. “Put them in a hospice,” she said as an alternative to helping people kill themselves.

According to the seventh annual report on the dignity act, 68 percent of people who died due to assisted suicide in 2004 used Pentobital (available in either acid or sodium salt) to kill themselves while 32 percent died from an insomnia medicine called Secobarbital.

The Department of Human Services is required to record all that goes on with the act. DHS has to keep track of all the doctors who have patients planning to use lethal drugs to end their lives.

Each year they publish an annual report detailing what has gone on in the previous year.

Facts include complications, percentages and how long it took patients to pass away after taking the selected drugs.

Although it is up to the patient to determine what his fate will be, there are strict requirements that must be met.

In order to die through assisted suicide in Oregon, patients must be 18 years old or older, capable, as described by health care officials, diagnosed with a terminal illness and a resident of Oregon.

Assisted suicide is not considered euthanasia, which is illegal, because the drugs are self-administered.

The drugs are only provided by a physician and taken in a controlled environment — sometimes under the supervision of friends or family members. The physician is not even required to be present.

Assisted suicide is not taken lightly in the medical community.

If patients meet the requirements, only then are they eligible to put in an assisted suicide request. That request comes with another process including several steps that the patients must take before the procedure actually begins.

Every action taken by physicians who currently have patients waiting for lethal medication must be recorded and submitted to the Department of Human Services.

Even with the controlled nature of the act, many, including the Bush administration, still say that the act of helping people kill themselves is wrong.

However, some people feel it is a good idea to allow the terminally ill to make their own decisions about their fate.

“It is a great idea to allow people to die if they want to,” said Avonny Hankins, a registered nurse at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “At least they won’t be here against their will and turned into a burden on society,”

Other students think the terminally ill should not be so quick to end their lives. Alisha Fuller, 20, thinks people who are going to die soon should be more positive with the time they have left.

“I would not agree with that, if you only have six months to live, you should want to enjoy yourself, not kill yourself sooner,” said Fuller, 20, a medical assistant from Fort Lauderdale.

Some students not only consider assisted suicide wrong, they believe it is punishable.

“I would consider that murder, not assisted suicide,” said Michaela Edwards, 19, a sophomore nursing student from Fort Lauderdale. “More people need to be knowledgeable about it.”

Contact Steffany Bennett at