Oregon ends residency rule for death with dignity law, challenges remain for out-of-state patients

PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) — This year marks the 25th anniversary of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. Oregon was the first state in the nation to allow physician-assisted dying, and now the state is lifting its residency requirement.

People across the country are contacting doctors in Oregon to inquire about getting prescriptions, but there are challenges.

Dr. Charles Blanke says despite lifting the residency requirement, doctors are concerned about the risks of taking patients out of state. He says that “people are always afraid of how the law will be applied, they are always afraid that people will take the drugs home”.

In much of the country, prescriptions would be considered illegal.

Another major challenge faced by out-of-state patients is finding housing. Those without family in Oregon need a private place to consume the drugs and have ended up using their hotel rooms. But Dr Blanke says he finds hotels are not interested in hosting Death with Dignity patients.

In an effort to help them find beds, he posted an ad on Craigslist looking for Airbnb landlords willing to rent their properties to patients. He is looking for interested owners.

The number of people seeking an order under the Death with Dignity Act has increased dramatically over the years. In 2000, 39 people applied for a prescription. Ten years later, that number has grown to 97 requests for orders and in 2020 the number has quadrupled with 373 people requesting orders for medical assistance in dying.

Patients must meet a number of requirements to receive a prescription. Among them, patients must be at least 18 years old, diagnosed with a terminal illness with 6 months or less to live, and be able to make and communicate their health care decisions to their vendor.

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