All across the country, three words are creating a buzz that is changing the conversation on end-of-life options: Death with Dignity.
According to the 501(c)4 that shares the same name as the term, it is a law allowing “mentally competent, terminally ill adults to request a prescription medication from their physician for the purpose of hastening their death.” It is completely voluntary and can only happen if the person choosing it meets the requirements. These requirements include being a legal adult, having mental competency, and being a resident of a state where death with dignity is legal. Two additional, and major requirements include being diagnosed with a terminal illness with less than six months to live, and be able to administer the prescription yourself.
Several states are currently debating on whether or not to make this an option for terminally ill adults.
In Hawaii, Senate Bill 1129 advanced out of of the Senate Consumer Protection and Health Committee in February and is being referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor. Three hundred people signed up to testify on the bill.
Minnesota State Senator Chris Eaton and Representative Mike Freibert introduced the End-of-Life Options Act of 2017 in both legislative chambers. The representatives do not expect the acts to get hearings in the Republican controlled legislature, but they want to continue the conversation on this issue.
Terminally ill residents of Washington, D.C. are now able to choose death with dignity after Congressional Republican efforts to block the legislation failed. The legislation was signed into law by D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser last December.
Maryland legislators withdrew legislation for an end-of-life option act last week. The two Democratic sponsors claimed that the cross-filed bills wouldn’t have enough support to pass in either chambers of the General Assembly.
Currently, six states and the District of Columbia have death with dignity laws. Twenty-four states are currently debating legislation on whether or not to enact death with dignity laws. Opponents of death with dignity claim that these laws could lead to abuse of the elderly and disabled through coercion. Supporters believe that this legislation will give people more control over their lives, and possibly comfort, when they enter the final stages of their life.