Oregon voters passed the nation's first Death with Dignity Act in 1994 — 23 years ago. The law allows terminally ill people to voluntarily end their lives by taking a lethal dose of medication prescribed by a physician.
Three years later, the courts rejected a legal challenge to the law, and later that same year voters defeated an attempt to repeal the act — by a wider margin than the original approval. Over the ensuing years, the act has withstood multiple attempts to outlaw it and to punish doctors who participate in it. It is still on the books, unchanged.
What's one more thing that hasn't changed? As a society, even here in Oregon, we still don't talk about death.
The subject is fraught with mystery and laced with powerful emotions such as fear and grief, all wrapped up in religious dogma.
A group of local residents is out to change that with the Ashland Death Cafe. It's an opportunity to meet informally with others and talk about all the issues surrounding death, either one's own or a loved one's.
The group is facilitated by mediator and end-of-life educator Laurel Miller, who brought the model to Ashland five years ago. It meets quarterly; there's one coming up Dec. 14, from 7-9 p.m.
Just getting past the taboo of talking about death and all its ramifications can be a positive experience. The location changes; you can find out where the next one will be by pre-registering at www.ashlanddeathcafe.com.