Washington State voters defeated Ballot Initiative 119, which
would have legalized physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. The vote
was 54%-46%. (November 1991)
A Hemlock Society spin-off group, Americans against Human
Suffering, launched a campaign to legalize "aid-in-dying" (a
euphemism for euthanasia). The campaign failed to garner enough voter
signatures to qualify it for November’s ballot initiative vote.
Americans for Death with Dignity, formerly Americans against
Human Suffering, gathered enough signatures to place the "California
Death with Dignity Act" (CA- DWDA) on the state ballot as Proposition
161. In November, California voters defeated Proposition 161, a measure to
legalized euthanasia. The vote was 46% for and 54% against the measure.
1995 AnOregon-style physician-assisted suicide bill (CA-DWDA)
was introduced into the California Legislature. Defeated due to lack of
1999 Another CA-DWDA—assisted-suicide bill AB 1592 —was
introduced in the California Legislature. While the measure passed two
committees in the Assembly (Lower House), it was pulled by the author due
to the lack of support in the full Assembly. Author turned the measure
into a 2-year bill, but continued lack of support killed the measure in
2005 Yet another Oregon-type assisted-suicide bill (AB 654)—this
time called the "California Compassionate Choices Act"—was
introduced in the legislature. This bill, like the 1999 version, passed
out of two committees, but, due to a lack of support in the full Assembly,
the authors pulled the measure. Hoping for a better outcome in the Senate,
the authors—Assembly members Patty Berg and Lloyd Levine—engaged in a
"back room maneuver," called "gut & amend," and
managed to get AB 654 into the Senate as AB 651. But the Senate members
were not as supportive as the authors hoped. Before any vote could be
taken, the authors changed both AB 654 (still in the Assembly) and AB 651
(still in the Senate) into 2-year bills. That means that the authors have
until January 31, 2006, to get both houses to approve one of the
two identical bills, a prospect which is highly unlikely.
Oregon’s chapter of the Hemlock Society introduced the
"Death with Dignity Act" in the Oregon legislature, but it
failed to get it out of committee.
In November 1994, by a 51%-49% vote, Oregon voters approve
the "Oregon Death with Dignity Act," also known as ballot
initiative Measure 16. The measure made it legal for Oregon doctors to
prescribe lethal drug overdoses to terminally-ill patients who ask to die.
Doctors were granted full immunity from prosecution if they followed
Measure 16’s provisions. Oregon became the first and only state
in the U.S. to pass such a measure. Because of a court challenges, the
Oregon Death with Dignity Act (O-DWDA) did not take effect until October
Due to serious flaws in the O-DWDA, the Oregon Legislature
passed a bill to return Measure 16 to the voters for possible repeal in
the November 4, 1997, election. The new initiative to repeal the O-DWDA
was called Measure 51. Oregon voters rejected Measure 51 (the repeal) by a
margin of 60%-40%.
On October 27, 1997, the O-DWDA—as passed in 1994—took effect.
The Michigan assisted-suicide group Merian's Friends gathered
enough voter signatures to qualify their assisted-suicide initiative
measure — entitled "Terminally Ill
Patient's Right to End Unbearable Pain or Suffering" (also known as
Proposal B) — for the state’s November 3 ballot. But, on election day,
Michigan voters handed assisted-suicide proponents an overwhelming defeat,
rejecting Proposal B by a margin of 71% - 29%.
2000 Assisted-suicide advocates in Maine qualified a ballot
initiative—to legalize the induced-death practice—for the November
state election. The measure was virtually identical to the
assisted-suicide law which passed in Oregon in 1994. The Maine Death with
Dignity Act, was placed on the ballot as Question 1: "Should a
terminally ill adult who is of sound mind be allowed to ask for and
receive a doctor’s help to die?"
On November 7, 2000, Maine voters joined ranks with those in Washington
State, California, and Michigan by defeating the ballot measure.
The vote was 51% no, 49% yes.
Other states with multiple legislative attempts
(bills) to legalize physician-assisted suicide
2002 For three years, assisted-suicide advocates
targeted the Hawaii Legislature in the hope of making Hawaii the second
state after Oregon to legalize physician- assisted suicide. The 2002 version of the Hawaii Death with Dignity Act (HI-DWDA)—modeled
after Oregon’s law—passed the House but was defeated in the Senate by
a vote of 14-11.
In 2004, the House
Judiciary Committee voted 10-5 for the measure, but when the bill went to
the House floor, the Democratic leadership withdrew it without taking a
vote. They said there were not enough votes to pass it.
2005 In 2005, proponents introduced another HI-DWDA (HB 1454).
This time—after more than nine hours of pro and con testimony—the bill
did not even survive its first hearing before the House Health Committee.
2005 In January 2005, Lopez introduced two bills. Both
would permit assisted suicide. One, called an
2313), like Lopez's 2003 bill, is virtually identical to Oregon's
assisted-suicide law. The second
2311), is a reintroduction of the failed 2004 measure based on the
Patient Comfort and Control Act.Neither
Assisted-suicide advocates introduced the Vermont Death with
Dignity Act— another clone of the Oregon law. The chairpersons of both
the House and Senate Health & Welfare committees refused to hear the
2005 The bill was reintroduced in February 2005. On April 12-14,
the House Human Services Committee heard 3 hours of public testimony and
almost 12 hours of expert testimony for and against the measure. The
committee decided not to vote on the bill. House Speaker Gaye Symington
(D) indicated that she does not plan to hold a House floor debate
on the assisted-suicide measure in either 2005 or 2006.
Rep. Frank Boyle (D-Superior) and Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison)
introduced their latest "Death with Dignity" bill in the
Wisconsin Legislature. They have introduced similar bills for the past 12
years, but, each time, the bills have languished in committee, never
progressing to a vote by either legislative chamber. Their 2005 bill is
also expected to die.
is a policy analyst
for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide and the
editor of the International Task Force Update.