This article was originally published as, Margaret Dore, "Death with Dignity": A Recipe for Elder Abuse and Homicide (Albeit Not by Name)," 11 Marquette Elder's Advisor 387, 2010.* The updated version below is current as of May 28, 2011.
Death with Dignity Acts in Oregon and Washington authorize physicians to write life-ending prescriptions for their patients. Oregon’s Act went into effect thirteen years ago. Washington’s Act was passed as a citizen’s initiative in 2008 and went into effect in 2009. Both Acts are touted as providing "choice" and "control" for end-of-life decisions. During Washington’s election, the "For Statement" in the voters’ pamphlet declared: "Only the patient – and no one else – may administer the [lethal dose]." Washington’s Act, however, does not say this anywhere. In fact, neither Act even requires the patient’s consent when the lethal dose is administered. These problems and other problems are discussed below.
In other words, the prescribing doctor asks multiple doctors to give the second opinion until one agrees to do so.
"Self-administer" Does not Necessarily Mean that a Patient Administers the Lethal Dose to Himself
Both acts imply that patients administer the lethal dose to themselves. There is, however, nothing in either Act that requires this. There is no language that "only" the patient can administer the lethal dose to himself.