chapter  4
20 Pages

A Movement to Repeal the Oregon Death With Dignity Act

Catholic organizations had repeatedly vowed to fight any and all efforts to implement assisted suicide (Park 1997). After the narrow success of Measure 16, Church affiliates joined with the National Right to Life Committee to begin planning how they could get Measure 16 back before the voters. First, they swayed the Oregon Medical Association to give up its position of neutrality on the issue of physician-assisted suicide. Next, they urged the Oregon legislature to send Measure 16 back for a second fight. Armed with an OMA resolution supporting the right of voters to consider repealing the law, the legislature put the exact measure back before the populace. Catholic organizations provided half of the more than $4 million spent to repeal Oregon’s assisted suicide law. They invested in a political strategy that aimed to raise fear of so-called death with dignity. Television and radio ads, as well as illustrations in The Oregonian, sought to make suicide pills appear as frightening as a syringe. Measure 51 proponents sought to reproduce the erosion of support for assisted suicide that had occurred in Washington and California by convincing voters that even if they supported assisted suicide, the means that were legally justified by Measure 16 were inadequate to assure death with dignity.