Terminally ill patients seeking physician-assisted death in Oregon, where it is legal, are no longer required to be residents of the state, under a settlement reached in a federal lawsuit this week.
The lawsuit, filed in October on behalf of Dr. Nicholas Gideonse, a Portland, Ore., physician, contended that restricting the right to die by state lines violated Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act and the U.S. Constitution.
Gideonse was working with the nonprofit organization Compassion & Choices that advocates for end-of-life care and sued the state’s governor, attorney general, Multnomah County’s district attorney and state health officials.
Under Monday’s settlement, Oregon will immediately stop enforcing the in-state residency requirement and asks the state legislature to modify Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.
“This requirement was both discriminatory and profoundly unfair to dying patients at the most critical time of their life,” Kevin Diaz, an attorney with Compassion & Choices, told The Associated Press.
Gideonse said the change in residency requirement comes as a relief for terminally ill patients he was treating who live in nearby Washington state. He is licensed to practice medicine in Oregon, but not in Washington.
“It severely impaired the ability of my terminally ill patients in Washington to receive the best quality of care, without interruption,” he said in a statement.
“The last thing my dying patients needed was to have to find a new doctor during their final days so that they could get the end-of-life care they deserve, just because they happened to live on the north side of the Columbia River,” he said.
In Oregon, in order for a patient to participate in physician-assisted suicide, they must be at least 18 years old, be capable of making decisions on their own and have been diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months. There are several other requirements for patients and doctors in order to proceed with the process.
Several other states, including California, Vermont and New Jersey, have passed death with dignity laws in recent years.