In Oregon or Washington state, does life insurance pay for assisted suicide?

UPDATED: Jan 14, 2013

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UPDATED: Jan 14, 2013Fact Checked

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Asked January 14, 2013

1 Answer

Even though half of the states have tried to adopt legislation which supports physician assisted suicide, only one state has actually passed such a law to date. In 1997, Oregon passed Measure 16, which provides details on when and how assisted suicide is allowed under state law. Other states may eventually follow Oregon's role, but it stands alone on this novel approach to terminal illness at this time.

Measure 16 provides a set of guidelines for doctors who have terminally ill patients considering the concept of assisted self-termination. It also goes on to state that such legislation should not interfere with the sale of life insurance, nor should the suicide of such a patient be interpreted differently than natural death by insurance companies.

The reason assisted suicide is not considered an issue for life insurance is a relatively simple one. Physicians are only allowed, by law, to help someone end their life if that person is already suffering from a terminal condition. In effect, the person is going to pass away regardless of whether they commit suicide, but allowing them to take this option takes a great deal of strain off the patient and their family, and gives them the dignity of choosing to die rather than live out their remaining days in pain, dependent on machines, or otherwise wasting away.

Insurance companies in Oregon are required, under this law, to honor life insurance policies of people who elect to take assisted suicide as an option. Since the person is going to die in a short time regardless of what happens, the law forbids insurance companies from denying claims on the grounds of suicide. This payout requirement applies to life, health, and accident insurance policies, not just to life insurance.

Most states require insurance companies to payout on life insurance policies when someone commits suicide, but only after the policy has been in effect for a specific amount of time, usually 2 years. Oregon's law bypasses that period of time, called the contestability period, and requires insurance companies to settle policies of physician-assisted suicides even if the death occurs less than 2 years after purchasing the policy. Since the law affects a very small number of patients, this requirement is not expected to introduce a financial burden for insurance companies.

Answered January 14, 2013 by Anonymous

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