The following is the text of a memo from the Disability Rights Legal Center on its recently filed case Brody et al v California, that aims to expand end-of-life choice to include the option of aid in dying.
Mentally competent terminally ill patients may find themselves trapped in a dying process they find unbearable, even with excellent pain and symptom management. Some of these patients want to be able to ask their physician for medication they could ingest to achieve a peaceful death. This practice is known as aid in dying.
It is increasingly supported by citizens nationwide: 70% of Americans support. Similar strong support has begun to emerge in the medical, mental health and health policy communities, including the American Public Health Association, the American Medical Women’s Association, the American Medical Students Association and the American College of Legal Medicine.
The option is now openly available in Oregon (since 1998), Washington (since 2009) and Vermont (since 2013) by statute, and in Montana (since 2009) and New Mexico (since January 2014) by court decision.
The evidence shows that no harm arises when this choice is available. A careful review of data from Oregon, where aid in dying has been openly available for more than 18 years, was conducted by the American Public Health Association, which considered such concerns. The APHA concluded that there was no evidence of harm to vulnerable populations, when aid in dying was available and adopted policy supportive of the option.1
At this point in time, significant support for the option of aid in dying has emerged from mainstream medical, health policy, patient advocacy communities.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.