Document Type


Publication Date



Some commentators and participants in the national debate over physician-assisted suicide (PAS) made much of the fact that in 1997 Oregon voters reaffirmed their support for assisted suicide by a much larger margin than the initial 1994 vote. The state legislature had put the initiative (which had initially passed by a 5149% vote) back on the ballot for an unprecedented second vote. This time the initiative was reaffirmed overwhelmingly, 60-40%. Barbara Coombs Lee, Executive Director of Compassion in Dying (an organization that counsels people considering PAS and one of the plaintiffs in Washington v. Glucksberg, 1997), hailed the second Oregon vote as "a turning point for the death with dignity movement." David Garrow, a frequent writer on the subject, called the landslide vote "a good indicator of where America may be headed." Still another commentator (Winifred Gallagher, writing in the New York Times Book Review) viewed the lopsided vote as a demonstration of "[h]ow far, and how fast, public opinion is moving on this issue." But the overwhelming defeat, last November, of Proposal B, the Michigan initiative to legalize physician-assisted suicide, has stopped the idea for now. Combined with the failure of Washington state and California ballot measures for "aid in dying" in the early 1990s, proponents of assisted suicide have done quite poorly in the public arena. Their records look especially anemic when one considers none of the bills proposing the legalization of the practice in more than 20 states have gone anywhere.