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Resource Document on Physician Assisted Death

Approved by the Joint Reference Committee, October 2017

  • 2017

Prepared by the Council on Psychiatry and Law

Over the past two decades, a number of US states have enacted statutes legalizing the practice of physician-assisted death (PAD).12 In 1997, Oregon passed the first statute that legalized PAD. Washington (2008), Vermont (2013), California (2015), and Colorado (2016) have followed suit. In addition, a state court ruling in Montana legalized PAD in 2009. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled PAD to be legal and the Canadian Parliament subsequently enacted a law to implement PAD. In February 2017, PAD was legalized in the District of Columbia. Legalization of PAD has been proposed in about half of all states in recent years (for details, see There appears to be a broad movement to consider legalization of PAD that may lead to legislation in other states. In the United States, PAD statutes have been restricted to patients with terminal illness, typically defined as an illness that is irreversible and likely to lead to death within six months.

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