- Nearly half of the United States is weighing bills that would legalize assisted suicide, showing signs that the debate among Americans about the “right to die” is growing.
- Lawmakers in Virginia recently voted Tuesday to advance a bill in the state Senate that would allow doctors to euthanize patients diagnosed with terminal illnesses, while another in Arizona would allow a patient to direct a doctor to withhold food and water .
- “To address each of their needs and alleviate their suffering, patients deserve high-quality medical, palliative and hospice care, not suicidal drugs,” said Bishops Michael Burbidge and Barry Knestout of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, in a statement.
Lawmakers in 19 states are debating legislation this year that would make it legal for a doctor to offer life-ending treatment to patients diagnosed with terminal illnesses.
Assisted suicide is currently legal in the United States in Oregon, Washington State, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, New Jersey, Vermont, Hawaii, and Washington, DC Bills have been proposed to expand access to the procedure. 19 states this year, showing a growing interest in the debate about the doctor's role in helping a patient end his life.
Assisted suicide was first legalized in Oregon in 1997 with Vermont, Washington State, Montana and California following soon after. New Mexico was the most recent state to adopt the measure in 2021, allowing patients with six months to live or less to take their lives after going through a mental competency screening process and, if exceed, a waiting period of 48 hours. seconds on KQRE News, a local media outlet.
The new bills, however, are coming from across the country in states like ArizonaVirginia, Tennessee i New York. Virginia officials approved a invoiceallowing terminally ill patients to request that a doctor provide them with a “self-administered controlled substance” to end their life, passed through the state Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee on Tuesday and will likely vote on the legislation in the Senate in coming days seconds on WUSA9, a local media outlet.
The advocates of the bill to argue that people should be able to make decisions about their lives for themselves, including when they die. Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, who suffers from progressive supranuclear palsy, wrote a letter supporting that argument that was read in the state Senate in January.
“There are thousands of terminally ill Virginians who face unthinkable challenges and choices because of these devastating health conditions,” Wexton wrote. “That's why this law is so critical. It's a vital step that allows Virginians to gain the dignity, freedom and peace of mind we deserve in the face of a tragic terminal illness like mine.”
On Sunday, however, Bishops Michael Burbidge and Barry Knestout of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, issued a statement said the Catholic Church was “alarmed and deeply saddened” and encouraged the congregation to contact their elected officials to raise concerns about the bill.
“People facing the end of life are very needy and must be accompanied with great care and attention. To address each of their needs and alleviate their suffering, patients deserve high-quality medical, palliative and hospice care, not suicidal drugs,” the statement said.
In the 23 years that the procedure has been legal, 5,330 people have died in the US from assisted suicide and 8,451 Americans received a prescription for the medication, according to a 2022 report. to study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Another invoice in Arizona would allow a patient to write a “living will” that would give the doctor permission to withhold “food and fluids” from the patient. The bill would also give a doctor immunity from “criminal or civil liability” when making “good faith health care decisions based on the provisions of an apparently genuine living will,” which discredits them. to argue may allow a doctor to starve a patient even if the patient asks for food.
US neighbor Canada, which has dramatically expanded access to assisted suicide in recent years, indefinitely halted part of its Medically Assisted Dying (MAID) program, which allows people with mental illness to commit suicide -se legally, after the lack of psychiatrists. were willing to sign the drug under these terms, seconds in the National Catholic Register. The MAID program was first passed in 2016 and was only allowed for a person whose death was “reasonably foreseeable” while suffering from a “serious and incurable medical condition,” but was later amended to include mental illness like depression
Some have expressed concern that the United States is headed in a similar direction. In a 2023 article for the American Journal of Bioethics, Daryl Pullman, a research professor of bioethics at Memorial University, cited Grant Gillett, also a professor of biomedical ethics at the University of Otago in New Zealand, who said that when people want a “quick and tidy solution” to a complex problem like depression or terminal illness, “euthanasia is just one answer.”
“The analysis offered here demonstrates that not all proposed approaches to managing this complex human problem will necessarily result in the abandonment of moral judgment, but moral judgment must inform and be constrained by law. Canada has much to learn from the U.S. in this regard. Conversely, the U.S. should keep an eye on Canada to avoid the precipitous decline it is now experiencing,” Pullman concluded.
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