Page 2, 3rd April 1998

3rd April 1998
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Page 2, 3rd April 1998 — Oregon records first legal suicide
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Organisations: Los Angeles hospital
Locations: Portland

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Oregon records first legal suicide

A wozdAN in Oregon became the first legal assisted suicide in the US last Wednesday, under a new law which allows doctors to help patients kill themselves. The death was promptly condemned by the Church, writes Andrew M Brown.

According to a pro-euthanasia group, Oregon Compassion in Dying, a woman in her mid-80s with breast cancer perished on Tuesday night after swallowing a lethal dose of barbiturates washed down with a glass of brandy. Under confidentiality provisions of the State's Death with Dignity Act the only one of its kind in the US officials would not confirm details, but the woman's family released an audiotape in which she said she was looking forward to her imminent death in which "I will be relieved of all the stress I have".

The Oregon law allows doctors to prescribe, but not to administer, enough drugs to kill if requested by a terminally ill adult who is of sound mind.

The Church led opposition to the measure when the proposal passed a state ballot in 1994, and it was held up by legal wranglings for three years.

Archbishop John G. Vlazny of Portland said he was saddened at the woman's death. "The suicide of this elderly woman can only bring anguish to those who have resisted the public-policy initiatives that changed the law in Oregon," he said.

Critics of the Act had predicted, incorrectly it seems so far, that it would lead to Oregon becoming a haven for would-be suicides.

• EFREN SALDIVAR, a respiratory therapist at a Los Angeles hospital has allegedly confessed to the "mercy killings" of up to 50 terminally ill patients.




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