A national dialogue is taking place around the question of whether, and under what circumstances, terminally ill patients can access life-ending medications with the aid of a physician.
An overview published today summarizes the findings of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine following a two-day workshop in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12-13.
Linda Ganzini, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of psychiatry in the OHSU School of Medicine and staff psychiatrist for the VA Portland Healthcare System, attended the event and co-authored a chapter laying out the Oregon experience with Katrina Hedberg, M.D., M.P.H., health officer and state epidemiologist with the Oregon Health Authority.
Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act passed by popular vote in 1994 and was enacted in 1997 after a series of legal challenges and a second vote. For 14 years, Oregon was the only U.S. state to have legalized physician aid-in-dying. Since then, another seven U.S. jurisdictions have authorized physician-assisted death through legislation, ballot initiative or state Supreme Court decisions, including Washington, California, Montana, Vermont, Colorado, Hawaii and Washington, D.C.
The workshop covered the following areas:
- What do data show about access to and practice of physician-assisted death in the United States and in other countries, and what are the data gaps?
- How are clinicians and health care institutions responding to the legalization of physician-assisted death in some states?
- What is known about how palliative care and hospice services have incorporated the practice of physician-assisted death in states where it is legal?