By Chris Haring

In a recent segment, residents shared thoughts and personal stories on the expansion of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act and physician-assisted dying

Right-to-die advocates in Oregon scored a significant victory in July, as Gov. Tina Kotek (D) signed HB 2279 into law. The legislation aims to improve the state’s 30-year-old Death with Dignity Act, notably expanding end-of-life options for residents of neighboring states by dropping its residency requirement.

On the heels of ongoing coverage by The Story, a nightly news segment produced by Portland’s NBC affiliate KGW-TV, viewers were invited to contact the station with their thoughts and opinions on the law’s expansion.

As we often see when folks weigh in on the perceived pros and cons of medical aid in dying, personal stories about loved ones’ struggles with chronic and terminal illnesses and the end of life were among the most poignant – and convincing:

“It is a very good tool,” said one anonymous viewer. “My mother-in-law went through it, and without [Death with Dignity], she would have suffered… further.” He also referred to an uncle who did not have access to aid in dying and ultimately took his own life.

A viewer named Sharon wrote “My good friend recently passed in her home with Death with Dignity. She was upbeat [and] very happy with her decision.” Sharon added, “If possible, I will also make this decision for myself.

Perhaps the most compelling anecdote was from another viewer, Susan, who talked about the “humanity” of allowing people to make autonomous end-of-life decisions. Although they were longtime Oregon residents, she and her husband were living in Florida for about a year before he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Before long, the disease had rendered it too painful for him to eat or drink, she said.

“He begged his doctor to [overdose] him on morphine,” Susan wrote. “Sixteen weeks after diagnosis, he passed away having been taken off IV nutrition two weeks earlier at his request.” She said her husband essentially starved to death, asserting that if they had still been living in Oregon, “he would have exercised his right to die with dignity” before meeting such a tragic end.

Although the Act and its expansion have undoubtedly been a net positive for Oregonians living with terminal illnesses and their families, some folks note that there is still room for improvement. 

One viewer named Larry said that when his wife was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, the approval process for assisted dying was “ridiculously complicated” and her health worsened too quickly to take advantage of the practice’s legality.

Although this news out of Oregon is undoubtedly cause for celebration within the Death with Dignity movement, we know that experiences like those shared by Susan and Larry are still far too common. That’s why we are committed to ensuring aid in dying is accessible for folks across the country, and we acknowledge that while significant progress continues to be made, our work is far from complete.

Watch the full video below:

The Story viewers talk Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act and assisted dying

Published: 6:30 PM PDT July 21, 2023
Updated: 7:55 PM PDT July 21, 2023