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Arkansas Law Review


physician-assisted suicide, right to die movement, terminally ill, Oregon, Death with Dignity Act, healthcare system


This Article is divided into four parts. Part I discusses the history and evolution of the "right to die movement" in the United States. The current legal landscape in the United States is examined in Part II. In Part III, I analyze some of the relevant ethical concerns caused by the availability of physician-assisted suicide. My analysis primarily focuses on the Oregon statutes because it is the oldest physician-assisted suicide law in the United States and has served as a model for laws in the United States and abroad. For example, Lord Falconer's Bill, which was defeated by the British Parliament, was modelled after Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. Most of the misgivings about the legalization of physician-assisted suicide stem from the belief that persons who may be vulnerable because of their race, ethnicity, age, disability, and economic status will be adversely impacted. Relying on the "vulnerable patient" argument, opponents were able to prevent the passage of the British law. In addition, this sentiment was expressed by members of the New York Task Force on Life and the Law when they issued a 1994 report unanimously recommending that New York laws prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia not be modified. Part IV addresses the ethical issues surrounding Oregon's 20-year statute, which largely remain unresolved.