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Lawsuit filed over residency requirement in Oregon's assisted-suicide law

A doctor who sees patients who live in another state cannot offer assisted suicide even if it's legal in the patient's state. The lawsuit says it's unconstitutional.
Credit: RG - stock.adobe.com
State Capitol building in Salem, Oregon.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A lawsuit has been filed saying the residency requirements for Oregon's assisted suicide law violate the U.S. Constitution.

Oregon was the first state to legalize medical aid in dying in 1997, when it allowed adult residents with a terminal diagnosis and prognosis of six months or less to live to end their lives by taking a lethal dose of prescribed medication. The new lawsuit is by the national advocacy organization Compassion & Choices and an Oregon Health & Science University professor of family medicine.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports experts believe the legal action could have broad implications as the first challenge in the nation to raise the question of whether such residency requirements are constitutional.

Oregon's law was the basis of the laws that have since been adopted in eight other states and Washington, DC. California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Vermont and Washington state allow aid in dying for residents of their states only.

The lawsuit was filed in US District Court in Portland on Thursday. It asks the court to prohibit Oregon officials from enforcing the residency provision of the law.

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It says the residency requirement violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause in Article IV of the Constitution and the Commerce Clause in Article I.

The plaintiff in the case, Dr. Nick Gideonse, is a family practice physician and associate professor of family medicine at OHSU and a longtime supporter of medical aid in dying.

"I've been providing medical aid in dying since the early days of Oregon's law. It's profoundly beneficial to patients who have nothing left but suffering at the end of their life," Gideonse said.

Washington also allows medical aid in dying, but according to the lawsuit, Gideonse cannot offer his Washington patients medical aid in dying without risking his medical license or criminal prosecution.

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