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NV legal, medical experts discuss medical aid in dying


Alex Gonzalez, Public News Service

Legal and medical experts from the University of Nevada Las Vegas are discussing the implications of medical aid in dying.

Medical aid in dying is when terminally ill and mentally capable adults with less than six months to live can request a prescription for medication, in case they choose to use it to end their suffering.

David Orentlicher, director of the health law program at UNLV, said 10 states and Washington, D.C., now allow medical aid in dying. Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoed such a bill last year. Orentlicher was one of the co-sponsors of Senate Bill 239 and said he thinks it could be presented again in 2025.

“Some fates are worse than death,” he said. “When a patient gets to this point – that they’ve got this irreversible and serious illness and they’re greatly suffering – they may decide it’s no longer worth continuing living.”

He noted that a poll in 2020 showed 74% of Americans supported medical aid in dying. Opponents have argued that with advances in medicine and science, palliative care can help reduce suffering at the end of life.

Orentlicher said the United States tends to have stricter laws on the books than other countries, and that’s no different for medical aid in dying. He said countries such as Belgium, Canada and The Netherlands also allow it, with fewer requirements.

“They allow physician or nurse administration; we don’t,” he said. “It’s got to be self-administered. We have the terminal illness requirement, they don’t – which seems counterintuitive, because we are a more libertarian country as a general matter, and so you’d think we would be more permissive.”

He said religion is another factor in the debate because some faiths have strong feelings about a person ending their own life for any reason.

This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.