By Chris Haring
Despite residual barriers in the wake of a recent expansion of Oregon’s Death with Dignity law, doctors are innovating ways to help affected patients.
In July 2023, Oregon was one of two states, along with Vermont, to amend the residency requirement to its Death with Dignity Act, expanding aid in dying to those who make their homes outside the state. However, as journalist Anna Katayama explains in a syndicated segment from InvestigateTV, hurdles persist for many prospective patients.
The residency requirement’s removal enables familial togetherness
Oregon’s Adam Rafalovich found himself in an unenviable position when his mother, Louise – a Northern California resident – was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Although he initially moved her into his home to accompany her through treatment, her prognosis quickly became dire.
Thankfully, Adam says his mother was able to die by her son’s side without returning California, which would have been practically impossible in her weakened state. “It was extremely peaceful and loving, and it was a very sad moment, but it was also one of the great moments of my life because I was able to be there for her in a way that I don’t think a lot of folks get the opportunity,” he said, concluding [What was] really beautiful about the experience was that there was nothing left unsaid.”
Doctors help patients navigate remaining barriers
However, unlike the Rafalovich family, many patients who would otherwise qualify lack loved ones in Oregon or the means to pay for private accommodations. Dr. Charles Blanke, an oncologist with experience in physician-assisted death, says lingering caution among some physicians due to concerns about legal implications and finding an appropriate space are two of the biggest obstacles for prospective patients living outside the state.
Despite the hurdles, healthcare providers like Dr. Blanke have gone the extra mile, helping connect patients with other Oregonians who selflessly offer their services and other resources. Ultimately, they understand that genuinely accessible and affordable alternatives can’t come soon enough for too many suffering patients. These heroes are building a network of support so that more Americans can experience dignity and autonomy in their final days through medical aid in dying, regardless of where they call home.
For more information on Death with Dignity in Oregon, please visit the state page on our website.
Watch the video below:
(Disclaimer: As it appears in the following story, the term “assisted suicide” is problematic and inaccurate. Correct, appropriate terms include “medical aid in dying” or “physician-assisted dying/death.” Additionally, in jurisdictions with codified Death with Dignity laws, each specifies that medical aid in dying is, in fact, not suicide, nor a means to assist in suicide, so to call it otherwise is technically and legally inaccurate.)
Challenges remain after Oregon ends residency rule for ‘Death with Dignity’ law