By Ryan Tarinelli
CARSON CITY — Nevada lawmakers are once again considering legislation to allow terminal patients to kill themselves with medication prescribed by a doctor.
Republican lawmakers on Monday raised questions over patient safeguards and patient competency and coercion, among other specifics in the Democrat-backed legislation. The measure, heard at a packed Senate committee meeting Monday afternoon, would make Nevada the seventh state to enact similar laws.
Supporters argue the legislation will let the patients who are suffering die with dignity and end their pain. Opponents argue the measure gives insurance companies the ability to defer to physician-assisted suicide instead of paying for higher cost treatment. Other opponents argued the bill will lead to abuse against people with disabilities and give some an easy path to suicide.
Kristen Hanson with Patients Rights Action Fund told lawmakers about her husband, who was diagnosed with brain cancer and told he had only months to live. Her husband outlived the prognosis by more than three and a half years, but he could have had the life-ending medication available to him on his darkest days had it been legalized, she said.
“If he had suicide pills, he said that he might have taken them. And you can’t undo that. You can’t unmake that choice,” she said.
The medication under the bill would only be provided to adults who are diagnosed to be within six months of death and are of “sound mental health.”
Advocate and bill supporter Dan Diaz told lawmakers about his wife Brittany Maynard, who attracted national attention over the right to die. Maynard’s family moved to Oregon from California so she could legally take the lethal medication.
“A terminally ill individual that applies for this option is not deciding between living and dying. This is not a right-to-life or right-to-choose issue,” he said. “The option of living (was) no longer on the table for Brittany.”
Diaz said large majorities in Nevada and nationwide agree that terminally ill people should have the right to die.
Peg Sandeen, executive director of the Death with Dignity National Center, gave an overview of the bill to lawmakers and said she supports the option only being used by a limited number of people.
The non-profit organization reports that six states have such statutes, including California, Washington and Colorado.
Two physicians must determine a patient is competent under the bill and just more than 1,000 people have used the law in 20 years in Oregon, she said.
“It’s a very rarely used option at the end of life,” she said.
Physician-assisted suicide legislation narrowly passed the Nevada Senate last legislative session by an 11-10 vote. The measure did not cross the finish line in the Assembly.