FAQ: Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act


What is Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act?

The Death with Dignity Act allows terminally ill Oregonians to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications prescribed by a doctor expressly for that purpose.


Who can participate in Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act?

A patient must be 18 years of age or older, a resident of Oregon, capable of making and communicating health care decisions for him/herself, and be diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death, as determined by two doctors, within 6 months.


Can a patient take their Death with Dignity medication while staying at the hospital?

Salem Health believes that its acute care hospitals are not the appropriate setting for patients taking life-ending medications. The need for active engagement of the patient’s primary physician, and other operational challenges make the process unsuitable for Salem Health’s focus on providing quality care for those in need of acute care. Where appropriate, referrals to other community providers will be made, if requested by patients whose needs cannot be met within Salem Health.


Do all physicians participate in Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act?

No, doctors may choose to participate or not. Some employers may prohibit doctors from participating in this process. A doctor must be an MD or DO licensed in Oregon.


How does a patient get a prescription from a participating physician?

  1. The patient must make two oral requests to the attending physician, separated by at least 15 days.
  2. The patient must provide a written request to the attending physician, signed in the presence of two witnesses, at least one of whom is not related to the patient.
  3. The attending physician and a consulting physician must confirm the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis.
  4. The attending physician and a consulting physician must determine whether the patient is capable of making and communicating health care decisions for him/herself.
  5. If either physician believes the patient’s judgment is impaired by a psychiatric or psychological disorder (such as depression), the patient must be referred to a psychological examination.
  6. The attending physician must inform the patient of feasible alternatives to the Act including comfort care, hospice care, and pain control.
  7. The attending physician must request, but may not require, the patient to notify their next-of-kin of the prescription request. 


Must a physician be present?

The patient self-administers the prescribed medication, it is not administered by the physician. A physician may be in attendance if the patient wishes it.


Can a patient change their mind?

Yes, a patient can rescind a request to participate at any time and in any manner.


If a patient’s doctor does not participate in the Death with Dignity Act, how can he/she get a prescription?

The patient must find another doctor (MD or DO) who is licensed to practice in Oregon and who is willing to participate.


Can a patient be on hospice while participating in the Death with Dignity Act?

A patient can both participate in the Act and be on hospice, however, the hospice organization may choose to not participate.


Does insurance cover medical care that is part of the Death with Dignity Act?

As with any medical procedure, insurers will determine what is covered by policy. However, federal funding cannot be used for services rendered under the Death with Dignity Act.

Source: Adapted from “FAQs about the Death with Dignity Act