Lawsuit over Ore. “Death with Dignity Act” says residency requirements are unconstitutional

SALEM, Ore.- A lawsuit saying the residency requirements for Oregon’s medical aid in lying law are unconstitutional has been filed in federal court in Portland. It is hoping to open up the service to people from other states.

In 1997, Oregon became the first state to legalize the practice with the Death with Dignity Act.  It allows adults with a terminal diagnosis of six months or less to live to end their lives by taking a lethal dose of prescribed medication. The only caveat is they must be a resident of the state where they’re asking for the procedure.

The national advocacy organization Compassion & Choices and OHSU doctor Dr. Nick Gideonse filed the suit. They say the residency requirement made sense when it was the only law of its kind in the nation, but its now time it adapt to the present.

“At this point, where the standards of medical practice has evolved, we know what good practice looks like, other states have joined us, this restriction doesn’t serve a purpose anymore and this restriction doesn’t apply to any other procedures that I do,” said Dr. Gideonse. He is an associate professor of family medicine at OHSU, and also a family practice and palliative care doctor. He says he’s had to turn down some Washington patients who are interested in the procedure, despite regularly serving patients for a number of other medical procedures.

The most recent change the Act went through was an adjustment to the waiting period, allowing doctors to waive it if need be.

The lawsuit is the first challenge in the nation to raise the question of whether “residency requirements” are constitutional.

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