Attempts to Legalize

Attempts to Legalize Euthanasia/Assisted-Suicide in the United States

In the United States, Oregon was the first state to legalized doctor-prescribed suicide. At that time, assisted-suicide advocates predicted that there would be a rapid “domino effect,” and other states would soon follow Oregon’s lead. But they were wrong. It took fourteen years before another state legalized the practice, and, even then, only after advocates spent a whole year preparing the campaign and raising millions of dollars to insure the victory they so desperately wanted. That state was Washington, the state consultants said was demographically most like Oregon and, therefore, most likely to favor assisted suicide.
In May 2013, Vermont passed an Oregon-style assisted suicide law.

But, since Oregon legalized assisted suicide in 1994, many states have rejected assisted-suicide measures, some multiple times. Since January 1994, there have been more than 140 legislative proposals in 27 states. With the exception of Vermont’s 2013 bill, all bills that are not currently pending were either defeated, tabled for the session, withdrawn by sponsors, or languished with no action taken.

Here is a listing, by state, of all the ballot initiatives (since 1991) and all the legislative measures (since 1994) to legalize euthanasia and/or doctor-prescribed suicide in the U.S.

Ballot Initiatives that Passed

Oregon – 1994

Ballot Measure 16 (Oregon Death with Dignity Act) passed on November 8, 1994, by the narrow margin of 51% to 49%. By legalizing physician-assisted suicide, the ballot measure transformed the crime of assisted suicide into a medical treatment.

Washington State — 2008

Ballot Initiative 1000 (Washington Death with Dignity Act) passed on November 4, 2008, by a vote of 58% to 42%. The Washington law is virtually identical to Oregon’s assisted-suicide law.

Ballot Initiatives that Were Defeated

Washington State – 1991

Ballot Initiative 119, which would have legalized “aid-in-dying” (both doctor-administered euthanasia and doctor-prescribed suicide), was defeated by a vote of 54% to 46%.

California – 1992

Proposition 161, a ballot initiative that would have legalized euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide failed by a vote of 54% to 46%.

Michigan – 1998

Measure B, which would have legalized physician-assisted suicide, was overwhelmingly rejected by a margin of 71% to 29%.

Maine – 2000

Question 1, the “Maine Death with Dignity Act,” patterned after the “Oregon Death with Dignity Act” would have legalized physician-assisted suicide.  It was defeated by voters 51% to 49%.

Massachusetts — 2012
Question 2, the “Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act,” patterned after the “Oregon Death with Dignity Act” would have legalized doctor-prescribed suicide.  It was defeated by voters 51% to 49%.


Legislative Measures since January 1994
With the exception of Vermont’s 2013 bill, all bills that are not currently pending were either defeated, tabled for the session, withdrawn by sponsors, or languished with no action taken.
Alaska
HB 371 (1996)Arizona
SB 1007 (1996)
HB 2167 (1999)
HB 2454 (2003)
HB 2564 (2004)
HB 2311, HB 2313 (2005)
HB 2372, HB 2357 (2007)
HB 2387 (2008)

California
AB 1080, AB 1310 (1995)
AB 1592 (1999)
AB 654 (2005)
AB 651 (2006)
AB 374 (2007)

Colorado
HB 95-1308 (1995)
HB 96-1185 (1996)

Connecticut
HB 6928, SB 334 (1995)
HB 6083 (1997)
SB 1138 (2009)
HB 6645 (2013)
Raised Bill No. 5326  (2014)

Hawaii
SB 2095 (1998)
HB 418, HB 347, SB 981, SB 692,   HB 1155, SB 1037 (1999)
HB 2491, SB2749, SB 709 (2001)
HB 2487, SB 2745 (2002)
HB 862, SB 391 (2003-2004)
HB 1454, SB 1308 (2005)
HB 3013, SB 2900 (2006)
HB 675, SB 800, SB 1995 (2007)
HB 587, HB 806, SB 1159 (2009)
HB 803, HB 1383, HB 1165 (2011)
HB 606 (2013)

Illinois
HB 601, SB 948 (1997)

Iowa
HB 2425 (2006)

Kansas
HB 2068 (2013) pending
HB 2108 (2013) pending

Louisiana
SB 128 (1999)

Maine
HB 552 (1995)
LD 916 (1996)
HB 663 (1997)
IB 3, IB 10 (1999)
LD 1065 (2013)

Maryland
HB 933, HB 474 (1995)

Massachusetts
H 3173 (1995)
H 1543 (1997)
H 1468 (2009)
H 2233 (2011)
H 3884 (2012)
H 1998 (2013)

Michigan
HB 4134 (1994)
SB 640 (1995)
SB 653 (1997)
HB 5474 (1998)

Mississippi
HB 1023 (1996)Montana
SB 220 (2013)
SB 167 (2011)
SB  220 (2013)

Nebraska
LB 1259 (1996)
LB 406 (1997)
LB 70 (1999)

New Hampshire
HB 339 (1996)
HB 1433-FN (1998)
SB 44 (1999)
HB 304 (2009)
HB 513 (2011)
HB 1325 (2014)

New Jersey
A 3328, S 2259  (2012)
A 2270, S 382 (2014) pending

New Mexico
SB 446 (1995)
HB 814 (2009)

New York
S 1683, S 5024-A, A 6333 (1995)
SB 4834 (1999)
SB 677 (2001)
AB 9360 (2012) (withdrawn 5/9/12)

Pennsylvania
HB 1435 (2007)
SB 404 (2009)
SB 431 (2011)
SB 1032 (2013) pending
HB 2548 (2014) pending

Rhode Island
SB 2985 (1995)
SB 2869 (1998)
SB 2763 (2001)
HB 7428, SB 2766 (2006)
HB 6080 (2007)

Vermont
H 335 (1995)
H 109 (1997)
H 493 (1999)
H 318, S 112 (2003-2004)
H 168 (2005-2006)
H 44, S 63 (2007)
H 455, S 144 (2009)
H 274, S.103  (2011-2012)
S 77 (2013) passed 5/13

Washington
SB 5596 (1995)
SB 6576 (1998)
SB 6843 (2006)

Wisconsin
AB 174, SB 90 (1995)
AB 32, SB 27 (1997)
AB 297, SB 124 (1999)
AB 417, SB 184 (2001)
AB 348, SB 169 (2003)
AB 507, SB 224 (2005)
AB 298, SB 151 (2007)

Wyoming
SB 7 (2004)


For more extensive information about U.S. proposals to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide, see:

“Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide & Health Care Decisions” (2006)
“Assisted Suicide & Death with Dignity: Past, Present & Future” (2004)
“Assisted Suicide: The Continuing Debate” (2002)
“The Art of Verbal Engineering” (1996)
Update: on-line editions (1996 – Present)