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Saturday, June 15, 2019

What is the Medical Aid in Dying Act?

Medical aid in dying is the process by which an adult, mentally competent, terminally ill patient, whose doctors have determined likely to die within six months, self-consumes prescribed medicines to end suffering and achieve a peaceful death. There are currently legislative efforts in New York State to establish Medical Aid in Dying as a right.


Has it been tried before? Medical Aid in Dying has been legal in both Oregon and Washington for over a decade. Evidence compiled from these two states demonstrates that these programs are overwhelmingly beneficial. There is no evidence of disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations - the majority of patients who choose aid in dying have health insurance and most are college educated. There is no evidence that palliative care and hospice have been undermined. There is no evidence of related coercion or abuse. There is no evidence of any slippery slope to extend medical aid in dying to those who are not terminally ill. There is no evidence of harm to the reputation of the medical profession.


What Safeguards are Proposed in New York? There are multiple proposed safeguards, although it is unclear which ones will be finally enacted. Some of the key provisions include:

•     Patient must be at least 18 years of age.

•     Patient must have a terminal illness, confirmed by at least two physicians. There are specific requirements for both the attending physician and a consulting physician, including exams, written reports, and discussions with patient.

•     Patient must make both a written and oral request for Medical Aid in Dying.

•     Request must be witnessed by 2 witnesses, who attest that patient has capacity, is acting voluntarily and is not being coerced. There are specific requirements for witnesses, at least one of whom cannot be related to the patient.

•     If one of the two physicians has concerns about capacity, a mental health professional must be consulted and must provide a written report with their conclusions. Only patients who are determined to have legal capacity may proceed.

•     Patient must be able to self-administer the medication.


Is There Support in New York? According to a 2015 poll, 77% of New Yorkers support the Medical Aid in Dying Act, with support distributed evenly amongst Democrats, Republicans, and Conservatives. Physicians support Medical Aid in Dying by an almost 2 to 1 margin.

 

Please contact Sverdlov Law PLLC at 212-709-8112 or ksverdlov@sverdlovlaw.com if you need help with setting up a proper health care proxy or if you have any other advance directive questions.


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