Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. As a result, any individual whom two physicians diagnose as having less than six months to live can lawfully request a fatal dose of barbiturate to end his or her life. Since 1994, more than 500 Oregonians have taken their mortality into their own hands. In How to Die in Oregon, filmmaker Peter Richardson gently enters the lives of the terminally ill as they consider whether – and when – to end their lives by lethal overdose.
Richardson examines both sides of this complex, emotionally charged issue. What emerges is a life-affirming, staggeringly powerful portrait of what it means to die with dignity.
Through a 1994 ballot measure (Measure 16) named the Death with Dignity Act, Oregon became the first U.S. state and one of the first jurisdictions in the world to allow physician assisted suicide. The film covers the background of the Oregon law and the life of a few patients who have chosen to take their life under it. It also features some information about the neighboring state of Washington's attempt to legalize physician-assisted suicide in 2008 through a law modeled after Oregon's.