Death with Dignity National Center
|Formation||December 30, 1994|
|Type||Education, defense, and advocacy|
|Legal status||501(c)(3) nonprofit organization|
|Purpose||To promote death with dignity laws based on model legislation, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, both to provide an option for dying individuals and to stimulate nationwide improvements in end-of-life care.|
|George Eighmey, JD|
|Peg Sandeen, PhD, MSW|
|The Oregon Death with Dignity Legal Defense and Education Center|
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Death with Dignity National Center is a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan nonprofit organization, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, that has led the legal defense of and education about Death with Dignity laws throughout the United States for more than 25 years. The Death with Dignity National Center helped write and defend in courts the nation's first successful assisted dying law, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, protecting the right of persons with terminal illness to control their own death. The Death with Dignity National Center is affiliated with the Death with Dignity Political Fund, a distinct and separately incorporated 501(c)(4) organization responsible for the promotion of death with dignity legislation in other states around the U.S.
"The mission of the Death with Dignity National Center is to promote death with dignity laws based on our model legislation, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, both to provide an option for dying individuals and to stimulate nationwide improvements in end-of-life care."
In 1993 Oregon Right to Die, a political action committee, was founded to draft and pass Oregon's Death with Dignity ballot measure 16. The following year the Oregon Right to Die PAC (ORDPAC) campaigned successfully for the passage of Measure 16 in Oregon; 51% of Oregon voters approved the death with dignity ballot initiative which created the Oregon Death With Dignity Act allowing those who are terminally ill to hasten death in consultation with their physician and under strict safeguards, making Oregon the first U.S. state and one of the first jurisdictions in the world to officially do so. Subsequently, the Oregon Death with Dignity Legal Defense and Education Center (ODLDEC), the forerunner to the Death with Dignity National Center, a 501(c)(3) organization, was founded to defend the voter-approved law. In 1997, Oregon Right to Die Political Action Committee successfully defeated Measure 51, an attempt to ban death with dignity in Oregon, by a margin of 60% to 40%.
After the successful collaboration of the Death with Dignity Alliance starting in 1997 three of the organizations in the alliance—Oregon Death with Dignity, Oregon Death with Dignity Legal Defense and Education Center, and Death with Dignity National Center—merged and became Death with Dignity National Center and Oregon Death with Dignity Political Action Fund in 2004. Another alliance member, Compassion in Dying, later merged with End-of-Life Choices (formerly the Hemlock Society) and became Compassion and Choices.
In 2000 Death with Dignity National Center led the effort on Question 1, the death with dignity campaign in Maine. The measure lost by a narrow margin, 51% to 49%, with only a 6,000 vote difference statewide. In 2001 Death with Dignity National Center partnered with activists in Vermont to establish death with dignity Vermont, and in 2002 Death with Dignity National Center launched an effort in Hawaii to pass death with dignity legislation through the legislative process. In 2003 ODLDEC is renamed the Death with Dignity National Center.
From 2001 to 2006 Death with Dignity National Center defended Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act against U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and his successor Alberto Gonzales who attempted to block DWD by authorizing federal drug agents to prosecute doctors who help terminally ill patients die. In January 2006, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in the case of Gonzales v. Oregon, that former Attorney General John Ashcroft overstepped his authority in attempting to prosecute Oregon’s physicians and pharmacists.
In 2008 Death with Dignity National Center successfully led the coalition for Yes on I-1000, Washington State’s death with dignity campaign, to a 58%-42% win. Washington’s Death with Dignity law went into effect in March 2009.
In 2011, Death with Dignity National Center partnered with Patient Choices Vermont to help pass Death with Dignity legislation through their legislature. Vermont Governor Shumlin signed the Vermont Patient Choice and Control at End of Life into law in 2013. In the meantime, Death with Dignity National Center established Dignity 2012 to pass death with dignity legislation in Massachusetts. The issue made it on the November ballot and was narrowly (51% to 49%) defeated.
Death with Dignity National Center is a 501(c)(3) organization governed by a Board of Directors. Current members include:
- George Eighmey
- Carol Pratt
- Eli D. Stutsman
- Midge Levy
- Lisa Vigil Schattinger
- Deborah Ziegler
- David J. Mayo
Prominent former board members include:
Through its different organizational structures over the years, Death with Dignity National Center has played a central role in defending and upholding Oregon's Death with Dignity law, culminating in the Supreme Court case Gonzales v. Oregon.
The most recent successful efforts led to the voter approved Washington Death with Dignity Act in 2008, the first-ever death with dignity law passed through a state legislature, in Vermont, the California End of Life Option Act in 2015, the Washington, D.C. Death with Dignity Act in 2016/2017, the Hawaii Our Care, Our Choice Act in 2018,  and the Maine Death with Dignity Act in 2019.
In all, the Death with Dignity National Center has been instrumental in drafting, passing, promoting, and defending all existing assisted death statutes in the U.S.
- Act 39 in Vermont, the first state to pass a death with dignity law by legislative action
- California End of Life Option Act
- Oregon Death with Dignity Act
- Washington Death with Dignity Act
- Final Exit Network
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- "Board of Directors". Death with Dignity National Center. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
- "Staff". Death with Dignity National Center. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
- "Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". Death with Dignity National Center. Guidestar. March 31, 2017.
- "The Physician-Assisted Suicide Oregon Trail". Final Exit.
- "Death with Dignity movement history". Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization.
- "Death with Dignity National Center chronology". Death with Dignity National Center. Archived from the original on 2010-12-25.
- "Board of Directors". Death With Dignity. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
- "Voters' Pamphlet Special election 1997 - Arguments in Opposition of Ballot Measure 51". Oregon State Elections Division.
- "Full text of the Supreme Court's decision" (PDF). Supreme Court of the United States.
- Lane, Charles (2005-02-23). "Justices to Hear Challenge to Oregon Assisted-Suicide Law". The Washington Post.
- Lewin, Adrienne Mand. "Supreme Court Upholds Oregon Assisted Suicide Law". ABC News.
- "Ballotpedia Maine Physician-assisted Deaths Question One".
- Arakawa, Lynda. "Bill on Assisted Suicide Advances". The Honolulu Advertiser. Archived from the original on 2010-12-25.
- Pang, Gordon Y.K. "'Death with Dignity' Bill Shelved". The Honolulu Advertiser. Archived from the original on 2010-12-25.
- "History of the 2002 Near Win". Hawai`i Death with Dignity Society. Archived from the original on 2011-07-26.
- "Yes on I-1000 Contributors". National Institute on Money in State Politics.
- "Vermont Act No. 39. Relating to patient choice and control at end of life" (PDF).
- "Assisted suicide: Vermont governor signs 'death with dignity' measure".
- "Bowser quietly signs legislation allowing terminally ill patients to end their lives". Washington Post.
- ""Death with Dignity" Signed Into Law". NPR.
- "Governor Mills Signs Death with Dignity Act | Office of Governor Janet T. Mills". www.maine.gov. Retrieved 2020-07-30.