July 10, 2019 Community news from the prairie to the lakes  
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  Time for Medical Aid-in-Dying law
   
 

To the Editor,
Just two months apart, the governors of Maine and New Jersey signed laws ensuring that terminally ill adults in their states would no longer have to suffer needlessly at life’s inevitable end.

The Maine and New Jersey laws will allow a mentally capable, terminally ill adult with six months or less to live to have the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication that they can decide to take to die gently in their sleep if their suffering becomes unbearable. This option allows a terminally ill person to avoid the very worst, very last part of the dying process.

Medical aid-in-dying laws include over a dozen regulatory requirements for a dying person to obtain the prescription. Two doctors must certify that the patient is mentally capable, terminally ill with a prognosis of six months or less to live, is able to self-ingest the medication and is not being coerced. There are witness forms, waiting periods and reporting requirements. And the patient is in charge of the process from start to finish: the patient must make the request, and ultimately ingest the medication.

Current medical aid-in-dying laws protect patients. In a combined 40 years of experience across eight jurisdictions, there has not been a single documented incidence of abuse or coercion.

Although the data and evidence clearly demonstrates that medical aid-in-dying laws protect patients, the trend within state houses is to attempt to add additional “safeguards” to address every possible way a nefarious doctor or family member could prematurely end a vulnerable person’s life. While this approach is well-intentioned, it is unnecessary, duplicative and ill advised.

Unnecessary because the data clearly demonstrates that medical aid-in-dying laws, with their current safeguards, protect patients. Duplicative because the practice of medicine is already highly regulated, with strict licensing laws designed to weed out or convict nefarious doctors. And ill advised because a dying person with limited time to live will never be able to obtain the prescription if we add more steps on top of the already cumbersome 12-step process outlined in existing medical aid-in-dying laws. A dying person needs end-of-life care policies that prioritize compassion over unnecessary government red tape and roadblocks.

I urge the lawmakers in every state to let the evidence and data guide policy making and authorize this compassionate option without further delay.

 

Kim Callinan, CEO of Compassion & Choices

 
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