Oregon ends residency rule for Death with Dignity law, challenges remain for out-of-state patients

Oregon was the first state in the nation to allow medical aid in dying.
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 8:59 AM PST
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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 medical aid in dying, and now the state is lifting its residency requirement.

People from across the country are contacting Oregon physicians to enquire about getting prescriptions, but there are challenges.

Dr. Charles Blanke says despite the lifting of the residency requirement, doctors are concerned about the risks of taking on out of state patients. He says, “people are still scared about how the law will be applied, they’re still scared that people will take the medications back home.”

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

Another major challenge facing out-of-state patients is finding a place to stay. Those who don’t have family in Oregon need a private place to consume the medication and have ended up using their hotel rooms. But Dr. Blanke says he’s finding hotels are not interested in hosting Death with Dignity patients.

In an effort to help them find beds, he put out a Craigslist advertisement seeking Airbnb owners who’d be willing to rent their properties to patients. He is finding property owners who are interested.

The number of people who have requested a prescription under the Death with Dignity Act has gone up significantly over the years. In 2000, 39 people requested a prescription. Ten years later, that number jumped to 97 requesting prescriptions and by 2020 the number quadrupled with 373 people requesting prescriptions for medical aid in dying.

Patients need to meet a number of requirements to receive a prescription. Among them, patients need to be at least 18 years old, be 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 provider.