More States Are Exploring Measures To Allow For Medically Assisted Dying

( – The subject of medically assisted dying is a controversial one. In 1994, Oregon became the first state to allow it, though it didn’t go into effect until 1997 because of legal challenges to the Death with Dignity Act. Since then, dying with medical assistance has been approved in nine other states, plus the District of Columbia. Now, more than a dozen others have pending legislation.

It’s not clear how many states will bring the issue to a vote this year, but states like Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Minnesota are on the watch list. In New York, particularly, it’s gained some steam, and in Virginia, it could be before the Senate this month. Florida and Tennessee are other states considering allowing medically-assisted dying, or medical aid in dying (MAID).

Medically assisted dying does not involve a physician helping a patient die in person. Rather, they prescribe life-ending drugs for the person to take at home. There are stipulations, too. The patient must be mentally competent and fully aware of what the process involves. They must have a terminal illness with six months or less to live and must be able to physically take the medication themselves.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, as of 2020, 8,451 people had received the prescription drugs, with 5,329 taking them. Men who took the drugs outweighed the women—53.1% to 46.9%—with the majority of those taking them, 95.6%, being non-white Hispanics. Cancer was the most prominent diagnosis.

Naturally, there are two sides to the coin. Major medical associations have not endorsed the method. The American Medical Association, for example, believes the practice “would ultimately cause more harm than good.” On the flip side of the coin, people want to die with dignity and choose when to end their suffering. While hospice is an option, it can be very painful and drawn out, and as occupational therapist and cancer patient Diane Kraus said, “it can’t solve everything.”

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