The Fight Against PAS Around the Country

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The fight against physician-assisted suicide is heating up around the country. Most recently we have seen the debate on PAS in Nevada and Maine surrounding proposed legislation. Not surprisingly, the legislation filed in these states is very similar to the dangerous language that we have seen in Maryland and many other states. 

Last week in Maine, both sides turned out for a legislative hearing on the bill. Like in Maryland, the bill proposes to allow physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to patients with a prognosis of less than 6 months to live. And like in Maryland, the bill includes no protections for vulnerable populations such as the elderly and people with disabilities.

Surrounding the legislative hearing, Dr. Chuck Radis of Peaks Island, Maine submitted a powerful op-ed to the Portland Press Herald in which he detailed a personal story about his elderly aunt who was a victim of financial exploitation by a caretaker. Ultimately, this caretaker was sentenced to ten years in prison for financial exploitation, but in his piece Dr. Radis states he has no doubt if PAS were available she would have tried to convince his aunt to take her own life.  According to Dr. Radis:

“As a practicing physician in Maine for 32 years, I have seen the best and worst of human behavior directed toward those with terminal illnesses. Inheritances are often at stake. Bills are mounting. Patients worry about pain. Depression may cloud judgment. Every aspect of a dysfunctional family may become magnified.”

This is an important point surrounding a very real threat that we should not forget in the fight against PAS. We expect this to be a close fight in Maine, where in 2015 the bill failed by only a single vote in the Senate.

In Nevada, a similar battle is brewing surrounding PAS legislation and for the second time a public legislative hearing on the bill has been postponed. The Committee on Health and Human Services pulled the bill from its agenda just hours in advance of the hearing after a request from the bill sponsor.

As a result, one of the bill’s opponents, Stephanie Packer, who came in from California was unable to testify against the legislation. Stephanie, a 34-year-old woman from California, has a compelling story that should raise significant concerns among legislators who are considering the PAS bill.

In 2012, Stephanie was diagnosed with scleroderma and told she had three months to live. However, she has been able to treat her condition and outlive that prognosis. She now takes expensive medications that help her, but after California passed PAS her insurance company informed her that they would no longer cover the medication, but would cover the drugs to end her life.

This is the scary reality we will face in a world where PAS is legal. Insurance companies should not be the ones who dictate who can live or die. We must continue to fight against this bill and the dangerous reality surrounding PAS.

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