Tuesday, August 6, 2019
With the New Jersey law going into effect last week (August 1, 2019), there are now 8 states that allow medical aid in dying, according to a recent New York Times story, Aid in Dying Soon Will be Available to More Americans. Few Will Choose It.
Maine's law becomes effective September 15, 2019, about 5 weeks from now. So with 9 states providing that option, "by October, 22 percent of Americans will live in places where residents with six months or less to live can, in theory, exercise some control over the time and manner of their deaths. (The others: Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, California, Colorado and Hawaii, as well as the District of Columbia.)" Even with these laws in place, there are still issues facing the patients, the story explains. There is "an overly complicated process of requests and waiting periods" as well as the sections of the law that allows doctors to opt-out, so access may be limited.
The article also discusses why there seems to be a "trend" (if you call 9 states a trend) toward changing attitudes regarding medical aid-in-dying:
All these laws require states to track usage and publish statistics. Their reports show that whether a state has six months or 20 years of experience, the proportion of deaths involving aid in dying (also known, to supporters’ distaste, as physician-assisted suicide) remains tiny, a fraction of a percentage point.
California, for example, in 2017 received the mandated state documents for just 632 people who’d made the necessary two verbal requests to a physician, after which 241 doctors wrote prescriptions for 577 patients. More than 269,000 Californians in all died that year.
With such data showing no slippery slope toward widespread use or abuse, “a lot of the hypothetical claims our opponents made no longer carry so much weight with lawmakers,” said Kim Callinan, chief executive of Compassion & Choices.
There is even a change within the health care profession re: this issue, but there are still opponents to it. Even those who support it may not use it, and the process within the law may provide barriers to patients, according to the article. Safeguards in the laws may be imposing obstacles to some including the waiting period, the 6 month limit and others.
Clearly this is a topic on which we still will see developments. So....stay tuned.