Physician-Assisted Suicide and Recycling: Oregon Legal Firsts

Medical sign

Medical sign

While maybe not so comely a combo in the headline, the point is that our fair little state has had a few nation-leading legal firsts, two of them quite notable.

Death With Dignity
Oregon became the first U.S. state to legalize physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients back in 1997. Since then, the Oregon Public Health Division has received reports that 1,545 people have filled prescriptions under the Death with Dignity Act, and 991 have ingested medication to end their lives. In 2015, 218 patients received prescriptions and 132 chose to end their lives.

In Oregon, terminal illness is listed on the death certificates of those choosing physician-assisted suicide. Of the 132 decedents over 2015, 78% were aged 65 years or older, with a median age at death of 73 years; 43.1% had at least a baccalaureate degree, 72% were suffering from cancer, and 90.1% died at home.

Four other states—Washington, Vermont, Montana, and California—have since followed Oregon’s lead, legalizing physician-assisted suicide.

Recycling, Waste Reduction
Oregon enacted the nation’s first legislated beverage container deposit system in 1971. An Oregon Department of Environmental Quality report for 2009 showed more than a billion bottles recycled statewide, resulting in reduced greenhouse emissions of almost 200,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. The report equates that to the emissions of 40,000 cars. Ten other states have followed suit.

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By Rob Goffins