Overwhelming popular support for MAID... so why is legislation so difficult in a democracy
Global Media Sensationally Misreports Minor Euthanasia
On April 16, 2019, the NC End of Life Option Act was introduced in the NC State House of Represnetives as HB879. Surprisingly, the bill had 2 Democratic primary sponsors (Rep Pricey Harrison and Rep Susan Fisher) and two GOP primary sponsors (Rep Jon Hardister and Rep Chuck McGrady).
In a historic development, a bipartisan group of State Representatives has introduced a bill calling for enactment of Medical Aid in Dying legislation.
In a startling rebuke to opponents of MAID, the state Senate rejected by a surprisingly wide margin 27-22 in the majority GOP upper chamber.
At the annual Orange County Democratic Party convention on Sat, March 30, 2019 in Hillsborough, a resolution calling for enactment of MAID legislation was unanimously adopted. Orange County’s elected officials have consistently been supportive of such efforts, and Rep Graig Meyer and Verla Insko have been primary sponsors of all legislative efforts in the past.
In a stunningly rapid reversal of years of stymied attempts, a bicameral vote of the New Jersey Senate ( by a vote of 21-16) and House (41-33) in passing on Monday, March 25, 2019 the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act, which Governor Phil Murphy has promised to sign into law.
In an important pronouncement, four respected NC physicians argued in an open letter in the NC Medical Journal that Medical Aid in Dying is currently available in North Carolina, subject to application of the appropriate medical standard of care.
The premier newspaper in North Carolina’s triangle published an op-ed urging support for legislation to enact MAID in NC, similar to the statutory provisions in place in 7 US jurisdictions. (An 8th jurisdiction, Montana, operates under an Open Practice regime relying on physicians applying the appropriate standard of care).
In this weekend’s WSJ Review section (Feb 9-10, 2019; pp C1-C2), author Katy Butler notes the importance of making plans well ahead of time to make sure our passing does not become an undesired ordeal.
We have previously drawn notice to an important law review article [North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 97 Addendum, pp. 1–20 (2019)], in which noted attorney Kathryn Tucker, Director and Founder of the End of Life Liberty Project, posited that even today, in the absence of any statutory language sanctioning Medical Aid in Dying, NC physicians can legally write end of life prescriptions for their terminally ill, mentally competent patients, provided they adhere to the prevailing medical standard of care.
In a pathbreaking law review article published Jan 17, 2019 in the UNC Law Review, Attorney and Hastings School of Law professor Kathryn Tucker, who has brought any number of MAID cases to the US Supreme Court and various State supreme courts, argues that because there is no NC law prohibiting the writing of MAID prescriptions, NC doctors should be able now to write scrips for terminal, competent adult patients, provided they adhere to a prevailing medical standard of care.
Thanksgiving is hardly the time to think of shaking off these mortal coils; it’s a time for celebrating family and friends over a copious meal punctuated by good conversation and memorable stories of the year past.
A recent WaPo article by the daughter of a suicide highlights inadvertently the vital differences between suicide and Medical Aid in Dying.
On May 30, 2018, President Trump whose newly-found pro-life bona fides can no longer be in doubt, signed the Right to Try Act of 2017, which amends Federal law to allow certain FDA-unapproved, still experimental drugs to be administered to terminally ill patients who have otherwise exhausted all approved treatment options.
A Riverside County (California) Superior Court Judge, Daniel Ottolia, entered an order on Friday, May 25, in Ahn v Hestrin, holding as invalid California’s End of Life Option Act, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in June 2016.
More than 80 interested guests joined us at our first conference at Charlotte’s UNC-C Center City on May 9, 2018, entitled “Expanding Medical Aid in Dying in North Carolina: Choices and Challenges”.
Yesterday, with the signature of Governor David Ice on the Our Care, Our Choice Act, the Aloha State became the 8th US jurisdiction to authorize Medical Aid in Dying.
At the annual Democratic Party convention of the Orange County Democrats, a resolution calling for enactment of MAID in North Carolina introduced by DRNC Executive Director Edmund Tiryakian, who is also a precinct chairman, was unanimously approved.
DRNC is sponsoring an important conference on the future of MAID in NC. Our keynote speakers are Barbara Mancini, whose harrowing tale of being arrested in PA while trying to help her bedridden dying father shocked audiences when she was interviewed on 60 Minutes, and Atty Kathryn Tucker, the nation’s premier litigator of MAID cases.
A recent NPR radio summary of an angry protest in Belgium over a controversial euthanasia incident likely disturbed any number of unwitting US listeners. The broadcast explained that a Belgian doctor had just resigned in anger and disgust from the country’s euthanasia commission after a dementia patient who never specifically asked to die was euthanized at the family’s request.
On January 31, 2018 to the surprise and delight of many, an Alaska House Health Committee approved 5-2 a measure to enact MAID in Alaska, HB 54.
One of the more confounding reasons cited by opponents of MAID is the notion, that the timeline called for under the statutory enactments that two doctors believe the applicant is likely to pass within six months due to a terminal condition, is at best an unreliable, if not impossible guesstimate.
Opponents of MAID are quick to mischaracterize the exercise as Physician Assisted Suicide. It serves their narrative that a terminal patient seeking release from suffering, lack of autonomy, utter helplessness and futility in the face of the medically proclaimed inevitable should be viewed in the same prism as a vigorous young individual in excellent health who succumbs to a moment’s despair over a temporary setback.
Among the many hoary predictions of MAID opponents is the notion that enacting Death with Dignity legislation will usher in a culture of suicide. During the debate in the late 1990s in Oregon and Washington, one often read dire predictions that passage of the legislation would make those states suicide meccas and that soon the local medical communities would be swamped by folks availing themselves.
Our two Board members have recently been published arguing the logic and compassion underpinning Death with Dignity legislation, such as HB789. Dr William Hazzard had his Letter to the Editor of the Winston Salem Journal published in early June in which he discusses the case of his sister Ra, who used the law in Oregon because of its unavailability here in NC.
On June 9, 2016 California’s version of Death with Dignity legislation (a/k/a Medical Aid in Dying), the End of Life Option Act, went into effect, following a contorted enactment over the course of several years.
Our own Lisa Roach made news recently as she finishes her third year of Law School at Wake Forest University. For more, read here
With the introduction of HB 789 on April 11, Rep Pricey Harrison and her colleagues Hon Fisher, Hon Meyer and Hon Insko, have done their part to advance the legislation.
North Carolina has now become the latest state considering enactment of Death with Dignity legislation. On April 11, 2017, four State Representatives, Harrison (D-57), Fisher (D-114), Meyer (D-50) and Insko (D-56), introduced HB789, almost exactly two years after the introduction of HB611.
It is not hard to identify the high water mark for the opposition to Death with Dignity legislation: it was June 26, 1997, the day Justice Rehnquist announced a unanimous Supreme Court’s judgment in Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997).
Following his phenomenal new book Modern Death, Dr Warraich elaborates on the hospitalization of the dying process
Lisa Roach, Co-founder Dying Right NC, addressed a Medical Ethics Conference explaining Medical Aid in Dying
Language shapes perception. It becomes the reality by which we judge circumstances and draw conclusions. Thus when people use the term “Physician Assisted Suicide” (“PAS”), it suggests an almost nefarious collaboration between a doctor and a depressed patient.
For those of us committed to enactment of Medical Aid in Dying legislation across the country, the writings of Judge Gorsuch give us pause. In a full length book and several law review articles, Gorsuch is unambiguous in his disdain for such laws. He views the practice, based on worst case scenarios extrapolated from a limited data sampling as of 2002 of the Oregon and Dutch experience, as a parade of horribles.
Reading Judge Gorsuch’s well researched articles against Medical Aid in Dying, I am struck by his dismissive critique of the Oregon regime as nothing more than unqualified doctors killing unwilling patients. He has reviewed data from the Netherlands where euthanasia is practiced and in fact preferred by patients who have a long standing relationship with their primary medical provider and who are in extremis.
Despite protestations by United States Senate Democrats that they will give as good as they got, the likelihood of successfully filibustering Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination ad infinitum is slim, if for no other reason Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can always dispense with the filibuster requirement by simple majority vote. Thus, it behooves us all to become familiar with the thinking of this brilliant 49-year old jurist who is likely to be on the court for a generation or more.
We were thrilled to meet on Wednesday, February 1, with the two co-sponsors of HB 611, introduced in 2015, which called for enactment of a Death with Dignity statute similar to the one in place since 1997 in Oregon.
We can’t choose how and when we are born, and to a large extent, as children, we cannot control our environment, where we live, and what we do. Our parents, teachers, pastors, scout leaders dictate terms.
For most of humanity, individuals rarely reached an advanced age. Life was cruel, brutish and short. If you even survived childhood, and most did not, you faced any host of rampant diseases, all of which are now treatable, and most of which were poorly understood in the first place. The medical profession was as likely to do more harm than good in its treatment and beliefs.