Oregon is not the place to live – or attempt to stay alive – if you suffer serious psychiatric problems.
The Oregon legislature has passed a bill that would allow hospital staff, in some cases, to starve and dehydrate mental health patients to death.
Lois Anderson of Oregon Right to Life says current state law allows it but sets limits.
"This legislation essentially removes those limits," she warns. "So an appointed health care representative will be able to make decisions such as removing ordinary food and water from someone who has become incapable of making decisions for themselves."
ORL reports on its website that HB 4125 first passed in the Oregon House on Feb. 16, then passed in the Oregon Senate on Feb. 27, in party line votes.
There are questions over whether a family member or guardian could override a hospital's decision, and the measure could be construed to impact people not only with mental issues but with physical health problems if a doctor concludes their life is not worth living.
"We've focused in on conditions such as Alzheimer's and dementia because, unfortunately, it's a very common experience for people," Anderson says. "But we do believe that it will also have impact on other types of mentally ill people who are no longer able to make decisions like what kind of medical care they need or want."
Yet there is another important question being raised: if a suicidal person is committed to a psychiatric hospital, and the doctor concludes the situation is hopeless, could that suicidal person then be starved and dehydrated to death?