Physician-assisted suicide in Oregon: what are the key factors?

Death Stud. 2003 Jul;27(6):501-18. doi: 10.1080/07481180302882.


Oregon's Death with Dignity Act has been operative since late 1997. The substantial national and international interest in Oregon's law makes it important to document any possible trends in the characteristics of persons who use the law. To do this, the present article examines previously reported data from various sources and places them within the context of the end-of-life decisions more generally. The Oregon data demonstrate that, regardless of the care received, a very small percentage of terminally ill Oregonians seem determined to request a lethal medication so that they may control the manner and timing of their death. College graduates and divorced persons are substantially more likely to use physician-assisted suicide to end their lives than are other persons. Control and autonomy appear to be the primary issues associated with taking legally prescribed medication to hasten one's death. A better understanding of the influence that a patient's marital status, education level, and desire for control may have on her or his ability to cope with, and make decisions related to, a terminal illness may allow health care professionals to better care for dying patients.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Depression
  • Educational Status
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Legislation, Medical
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Oregon / epidemiology
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support
  • Suicide, Assisted / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Suicide, Assisted / psychology*
  • Suicide, Assisted / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide, Assisted / trends
  • Terminal Care