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Oregon law allows only terminally ill, mentally competent adults who can self-administer the medication to ask a physician to prescribe life-ending drugs, and they must make that request once in writing and twice orally.
From the time the law took effect in 1997 until the end of last year, 292 people asked their doctors to prescribe the drugs they would need to end their lives, an average of just over 30 a year. Most of the 46 people who used the process last year had cancer, and their median age was 74, according to a state report.
Dr. Jack Kevorkian to Be Released From Prison
More end-of-life care is needed, but doctors should have a right to assist those who ask for their help in dying, Wanzer said.
"There are a handful of patients who have the best of care, everything has been done right, but they still suffer. And it's this person I think should have the right to say, `This is not working and I want to die sooner,'" Wanzer said.
Kevorkian has promised he'll never again advise or counsel anyone about assisted suicide once he's out of prison. But his attorney, Mayer Morganroth, said Kevorkian isn't going to stop pushing for more laws allowing it.
The state wants to go after money that Kevorkian makes following his release to help cover the cost of his incarceration. Morganroth has said his client has been offered as much as $100,000 to speak. Many of those speeches are expected to be on assisted suicide.
"It's got to be legalized," Kevorkian said in a phone interview from prison aired by a Detroit TV station on Monday. "I'll work to have it legalized. But I won't break any laws doing it."