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Nevada Legislature Set to Consider Bill to Allow Terminally Ill To End Life Peacefully

February 20, 2019

A bill to expand end-of-life care options has been reintroduced in the Nevada State Legislature. Sponsored by Senator David Parks (D-Las Vegas) and 16 other legislators, SB 165 would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months to live the option to request and receive a prescription for medication which they could take to die peacefully. The law would make Nevada the 9th jurisdiction to allow terminally ill patients this end-of-life option.

The bill contains the same safeguards for patients which have worked so well in other states, said Dr. Barbara Thornton, a former professor of ethics and end of life issues at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, who now is a director of the Nevada Coalition for Death with Dignity.

“This is a well constructed process that ensures the patients are always in control of their end-of-life decisions with significant safeguards to ensure the patient is able to make sound health care decisions, and is not under the undue influence of someone else,” said Thornton. “It is past time we allow the option of death with dignity for dying patients in Nevada.”

The core safeguards and key provisions in the bill include:

  • The patient must be diagnosed with a terminal condition by two physicians and have six months left to live.
  • The patient must be judged of sound mind and may be required to visit with a licensed mental health professional, if there is any concern they lack capacity.
  • The patient must be informed of all end-of-life choices including palliative care and hospice care.
  • The patient must make both an oral and written request at least 15 days apart.
  • The written request must be signed by two witnesses, one of whom is not a family member or heir.
  • The medication must be self-administered by the patient.
  • Health professionals, hospitals or pharmacists may choose not to participate for any reason.
  • The patient may rescind the request at any time, in any manner.
  • Life and other insurance cannot be invalidated by use of this law.

Backed by two national organizations–Compassion & Choices and the Death with Dignity National Center–the Nevada Coalition for Death with Dignity also includes as directors Dr. Charles Held, M.D., Dr. Robert Rabkin, M.D., and Dr. Greg Hayes, M.D., and continues to grow. A 2017 poll conducted by Public Policy Polling showed that some 72% of Nevada residents support the rights of dying people to make this choice.

“The facts and evidence from 40 combined years of experience in 8 jurisdictions is conclusive: medical aid in dying protects patients,” said Kim Callinan, CEO of Compassion & Choices. “I urge our Nevada lawmakers to ignore politics and let the evidence, data and strong public support guide your policy making and pass this compassionate end-of-life option this year.”

“What we have seen after 20-plus years of experience in Oregon is that this law has worked flawlessly to protect patients, family members and health care professionals while providing a peaceful and dignified death for those at the end of life,” said Peg Sandeen, Executive Director of the Death with Dignity National Center. “We are supporting Nevada citizens and their legislators fighting for this law because we know it will significantly improve end of life care for all Nevada citizens.”

The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.

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