Oregon Doctor Opens Death Clinic

Eligible Patients Must be Dying in 6 Months

In order to be eligible for physician-assisted suicide, the patient must be an adult with proof of residence in the state. Two medical doctors must provide a diagnosis saying that the patient's life will probably end within six months. If one doctor is concerned that the patient is depressed, a psychiatric evaluation can be ordered.

The patient must make two oral requests 15 days apart and one written request with a signature witnessed by two people, only one of whom may be a family member.

Once eligible, the attending physician may write a prescription for a lethal dose of the barbiturate secobarbital. The bitter powder is taken orally in liquid or applesauce.

"It's very peaceful," said Eighmey. "They go to sleep within three to five minutes."

Dignity House will start to take its first patients in August, but because of a state-required waiting period for patients, sanctioned suicides may not take place until September.

"This really is a death clinic," said Dr. William Toffler, a professor of family medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University. "It's an absolute corruption of traditional medical ethics to assist people with living well until they die naturally."

"The solution to suffering is never to kill the sufferer," said Toffler. "The compassionate thing to do is alleviate suffering, but not by encouraging or seducing them to take an overdose."

Toffler, an opponent of physician-assisted suicide, said that Weisberg's idea for a one-stop shop is "predictable."

Critics of the law said it would lead the state down a "slippery slope," and already out-of-state patients are easily establishing residence in Oregon to take advantage of the law, according to Toffler.

"Our goal as doctors is to provide the best care that the second millennium can provide," said Toffler."We need to provide that high-quality care given to Ted Kennedy to everyone and that's what we should be striving for."

"Offering suicide instead of care is absolutely upside down," he said.

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