CARSON CITY, Nev. — In a vote of 3-2 along party lines, a Senate committee in Nevada has approved a bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide in the state, sending the legislation now on to the full Senate for consideration.
Senate Bill 165, filed by Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, would allow terminally ill patients to request a lethal prescription from their doctor in order to hasten their death.
“A person who suffers from a terminal condition should have the right to determine whether to fight for his or her life using all reasonable care until life’s end, to enroll in hospice care, to seek palliative care, to ingest a drug to end his or her life or to take any combination of those actions,” an introduction to the bill outlines.
“Patients with terminal conditions who have suffered prolonged and unbearable pain as well as the loss of physical control at the end of their lives deserve the right to a peaceful and dignified death,” it asserts.
The legislation defines a terminal illness as “an incurable and irreversible condition that cannot be cured or modified by any known current medical therapy or treatment and which will, in the opinion of the attending physician, result in death within 6 months.”
Adults ages 18 and up who have been diagnosed with a terminal condition and who wish to end the battle against their disease would be required to issue two verbal requests to their doctor at least 15 days apart, as well as a written request that is signed by two witnesses.
The witnesses may not be related to the patient, and may not be entitled to any portion of the individual’s estate. Employees of the health care facility where the patient is receiving treatment would also be prohibited from serving as signees.
However, a chaplain, social worker or ombudsman may be permitted to sign if the patient resides in a long-term care or hospice facility.
Those who make the request to die would not be required to inform their family of their decision, as sample text for the written request includes the option, “I have decided not to inform my family of my decision.”
The attending doctor would be required to refer the patient to a second physician before proceeding to write the prescription, and would also be mandated to refer the individual for evaluation by a psychiatrist or psychologist if he or she deems the patient to potentially be incompetent.
“[T]he attending physician … must not prescribe a controlled substance that is designed to end the life of the patient unless the psychiatrist or psychologist concludes, based on the examination, that the patient is competent to make a decision concerning whether to end his or her life,” the bill reads.
The legislation was debated last month before the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, and included testimony from Dan Diaz, the husband of the late Brittany Maynard, who ended her life in Oregon in 2014, and Kristen Hanson, whose husband J.J. outlived his prognosis by three years. Both Maynard and Hanson suffered from an aggressive form of terminal brain cancer.
“A terminally ill individual that applies for this option is not deciding between living and dying,” Diaz said, according to the Las Vegas Journal-Review. “This is not a right-to-life or right-to-choose issue. The option of living [was] no longer on the table for Brittany.”
Hanson noted that her husband became a father again during the three years that he exceeded physician expectations. J.J. Hanson, who worked with the Patients’ Rights Action Fund until his death in 2017, had stated in his vocal opposition to physician-assisted suicide that he had struggled with depression for a time and that it would have been too easy to take the pill to end it all.
“I can’t help but think about if I had the choice to request assisted suicide drugs, and if I had used those drugs during those difficult moments, I would have lost the opportunity to make memories with my wife and son,” he wrote in a 2016 article. “Assisted suicide is a decision that you can’t unmake. My wife would be without a husband and my son without a father.”
As previously reported, a similar bill was recently introduced in Arkansas by a Republican lawmaker, but failed in committee as none made a motion to advance the legislation to the full House. Bills are also being considered in a number of other states, including Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware and New York.
Job 14:5 states that man’s “days are determined” and “the number of his months are with Thee.” Hebrews 9:27 also teaches, “[I]t is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”