In the first two weeks of 2020:
- Legislatures across the U.S. reconvened for the 2020 legislative session;
- A Massachusetts court ruled that terminally ill patients do not have a constitutional right to death with dignity, but their doctors can provide information to patients about the option.
California: “Hundreds have died from lethal drugs since death with dignity became legal in California,” Orange County Register, 1/3/2020
The Register reports on the utilization of the End of Life Option Act since its enactment in 2016. As in every state with an assisted-dying statute on the books, California’s law has been used sparingly, with no instances of patient coercion or abuses of the law.
Maine: “Maine Hospitals Are Tasked With Figuring Out How to Implement the State’s Death With Dignity Law,” Maine Public, 1/5/2020
As implementation of the Maine Death with Dignity Act continues, hospitals are deciding how and whether to participate. Last week, two health centers adopted policies making participation by physicians voluntary. Our own Valerie Lovelace, who is leading implementation efforts in the state, had this to say:
“I think it’s exactly what we need in our healthcare system that physicians and providers are recognizing there are ways to support patients that make the most meaning for their final days. And to be willing to support patient decisions with death with dignity is, I think, the right thing.”
Maryland: “Even with Senate Lineup Change, ‘End-of-Life’ Bill May Fall Short,” Maryland Matters, 1/13/2020
We are working closely with legislators and lobbyists to advance a death with dignity bill in Maryland, which fell short of passage in the state Senate by a single vote in the 2019 legislative session. A Goucher poll last year found that a majority of Maryland voters support medical aid in dying, indicating that the time is right for policy reform in the state.
Massachusetts: “Mass. Court Rules Patients Don’t Have a Right to Physician-Assisted Suicide, But Doctors Can Discuss It,” WBUR, 1/10/2020
From WBUR: “The ruling comes in a civil case brought by Dr. Roger Kligler, a retired Cape Cod physician who has advanced prostate cancer, and Dr. Alan Steinbach, who treats terminally ill patients. “This court has immense compassion for Dr. Kligler’s desire to avoid a potentially painful death and for Dr. Steinbach’s desire to ease his patients’ suffering,” the ruling reads. But the ruling rejects their arguments that medical aid in dying should not be considered manslaughter, while also concluding that sharing advice and information about it is permissible.”
New Hampshire: “My Turn: Lawmakers should pass ‘death with dignity’ bill,” Concord Monitor, 1/7/2020
For the first time in state history, lawmakers in New Hampshire have introduced a death with dignity bill. Our friend Cheri Bach wrote the above letter to the editor articulating her support for the legislation.
“Let medical aid in dying be an option in NY,” Albany Times Union, 1/4/2020
New York State Senator Diane Savino is the primary sponsor of the Medical Aid in Dying Act under consideration by lawmakers this legislative session. In the above op-ed, she notes that the vast majority of New Yorkers support death with dignity, and that more than 50 of her colleagues have signed on to her bill. “Too many New Yorkers are suffering at the end of life,” Savino writes. “That’s unacceptable. The time to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act is now.”
“What the terminally ill deserve: New Yorkers need a right to end their lives with dignity, on their own terms,” New York Daily News, 1/6/2020
New York doctor Jeff Gardere makes the case for passing the Medical Aid in Dying Act. “There are too many terminally ill, dying New Yorkers who are unnecessarily suffering at the end of life. We owe it to all of them to provide an end-of-life option that offers peace, comfort and dignity.”