Raft of assisted suicide laws introduced in states

Injection_Needle_Oleksandr_Lysenko_Shutterstock.jpg Credit: Oleksandr Lysenko/Shutterstock

Seven states are currently considering bills that would legalize assisted suicide, and two other states are looking to expand legal assisted suicide. 


Legislators in Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, New Mexico, New York, and North Dakota have all introduced bills in 2021 to doctor-prescribed suicide for terminally-ill patients. 


Arizona state Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley (D) filed her state's bill in early January, HB2254. The legislation would amend the state's law to allow a terminally ill patient seeking to die to request and receive a lethal dose of medication. A patient would have to request the medication in writing with two witnesses. 


Her bill is co-sponsored by eight fellow representatives, all Democrats, and is currently being read for the second time in the state House of Representatives. 


Over in Indiana, an "End of life options" bill (HB1074) would allow the terminally-ill "who meet certain requirements" to request a lethal dose of medication. 


The bill, introduced by state Rep. Matt Pierce (D-District 61), would also ensure that insurance companies cannot deny benefit payouts to beneficiaries in the event of one's physician-assisted suicide.


In Iowa, SF212 allows for physician-assisted suicide but refers to it as "an additional palliative care option" for those who are terminally ill, for their "autonomy."


Pope Francis in 2015 addressed the topic of "palliative care" in his remarks to an assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Pope Francis said that palliative care "values the person," and that medical knowledge must be used for "the good of man, a good which is never accomplished 'against' the life and dignity of man


Kansas legislators are considering the "Enacting the Kansas death with dignity" bill, which would "allow certain terminally ill adults to request and receive life-ending medication." The bill is currently in the Committee on Health and Human Services. 

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A bill titled the "Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life-Options Act" is currently in New Mexico's House Judiciary Committee. The bill is named after Elizabeth Whitefield, a judge who was an advocate for assisted suicide; the legislation has been introduced numerous times in the state and has failed to become law. 


New York has a pair of bills currently being debated, one to legalize assisted suicide for terminally ill adults, and the other to create a study on "medical aid in dying" should the practice be legalized. 


North Dakota is also considering a bill to legalize assisted suicide, which is currently being considered in committee. 


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Both the states of Hawaii and Washington--where assisted suicide has been legal since 2019 and 2009, respectively--are now trying to expand the scope of health care workers eligible to prescribe lethal doses of medication. 


A proposed bill in Hawaii would allow "advanced practice registered nurses" to practice assisted suicide. In addition, it would reduce the state's waiting period between oral requests for assisted suicide from 20 days to 15 days, waiving this period entirely for the seriously ill who may not live another 15 days. 


Washington state is also looking to broaden the standard of health care workers who can practice assisted suicide. Proposed legislation would allow not only physicians, but also some physician assistants, osteopathic physician assistants, and advanced registered nurse practitioners to prescribe lethal doses. Eligible health care workers must have primary responsibility for the care of the patient and treatment of the patient's terminal disease. 



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