By Chris Haring
Nevada’s Las Vegas Sun published an editorial in support of SB239, which would legalize physician-assisted dying as an end-of-life option
On March 26, the Las Vegas Sun published a guest column from Lynda Brooks-Bracey, an activist living with a terminal illness. The piece, titled ‘Dying mom pleads for medical aid-in-dying law,’ advocated for the passage of SB239, which would add Nevada to the 11 current aid-in-dying states (along with Washington, D.C.) that offer physician-assisted dying as an end-of-life option. With the state’s Assembly Health and Human Services committee set to take up the bill on the one-month anniversary of her column’s publication, staff at the Sun penned an impassioned editorial urging the state’s legislature to listen to “an overwhelming 82% of Nevadans” who support the right to die.
(Disclaimer: As it appears in the following story, the term “assisted suicide” is problematic and inaccurate. Correct, appropriate terms include “medical aid in dying” or “physician-assisted dying/death.” Additionally, in jurisdictions with codified Death with Dignity laws, each specifies that medical aid in dying is in fact, not suicide, nor a means to assist in suicide, so to call it otherwise is technically and legally inaccurate.)
Read the full article below:
Nevadans have maturity, judgment to handle medical aid-in-dying law
Tuesday, April 25, 2023 | 2 a.m.
“I do not want to die. But cancer is killing me … I am dying and sooner than any of us would like.”
The Las Vegas Sun receives dozens of guest columns, opinion editorials and letters to the editor from our readers each week. Few of them capture the pain, suffering and tragedy of Lynda Brooks-Bracey’s guest column, “Dying mom pleads for medical aid-in-dying law,” published March 26 in the Sun.
In it, the 57-year-old Las Vegas real estate agent, mother of four and pancreatic cancer patient describes her fear that her children and family will be forced to watch her die in pain and agony rather than with strength and dignity.
That’s why, despite having just months left to live, Brooks-Bracey has dedicated much of her remaining time to urging state legislators to pass Senate Bill 239. This legislation would give terminally ill Nevadans the option to end their lives using prescription drugs rather than spending their final days suffering.
On Wednesday, one month after Brooks-Bracey’s powerful guest column was published, the Assembly Health and Human Services committee is expected to take up the bill. We believe the committee and the entire Assembly should pass it without delay. Brooks-Bracey and other patients in similar situations do not have time for the typical political machinations. Their pain is too great, their suffering too visible and their dignity at too great a risk.
SB 239 passed the state Senate last week by the most razor-thin margin, 11-10, despite new polling by Susquehanna Polling & Research that shows an overwhelming 82% of Nevadans support allowing doctors to assist terminally ill patients in ending their lives. That’s a 10% increase just since 2021. In other words, this is an issue where the public continues to have strong feelings about allowing patients this option.
People with degenerative diseases or who are in chronic or untreatable pain deserve the right to make decisions about their own lives and deaths.
Nevadans are already allowed to choose whether they want extraordinary medical intervention to save their life in an emergency. Now it’s time to give them the power to decide what level of medical intervention they want for slower-moving but no less deadly diagnosis.
Critics of the legislation contend that doctors may introduce suicide as an option to people who may not otherwise consider it. They also worry about whether vulnerable populations will be pressured into ending their lives even in the absence of pain, suffering or a terminal diagnosis.
No doubt these are sincere concerns, but there is scant evidence supporting these fears from those states and other countries that allow doctor-assisted suicide. Besides, no one underestimates the gravity of these decisions and we believe the medical community can monitor itself because abusing such laws puts doctors at risk of accusations of murder.
The authors of SB 239 have deftly crafted a bill that requires that patients seeking a life-ending prescription must be at least 18 years old and be diagnosed with a terminal condition by at least two different doctors. The patient must make two separate requests for life-ending medication, one of which must be in writing, with a 15-day waiting period in between the two requests. And the person requesting the drugs must have the mental capacity to make an informed and voluntary decision without being coerced or deceived.
These are not low-barred hurdles that allow for random or impulsive end-of-life decisions.
Currently, 10 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., allow medically assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. Collectively these states represent more than 1-in-5 Americans. The practice is also allowed in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and Switzerland. None of these countries has experienced large-scale abuse of the type critics contend is inevitable.
The Nevada Legislature should listen to the stories of people like Lynda Brooks-Bracey.
“This isn’t about giving up, this is about doing everything you can until there is nothing else left to do,” she says in a video she recorded this winter in case she does not live long enough to continue her fight for SB 239. “Nevada is my home. I want to stay here and see my family and see my friends and have the option (of medical aid in dying) here. I want to die with my friends and my family around me.”
Isn’t that what most of us want? To take our last breaths with dignity and grace, surrounded by loved ones in a place we call home?
While we can’t always control the circumstances of our last moments on this earth. No one, let alone the government, should force people to suffer more than is necessary or stand in the way of a comfortable, loving and dignified death. The Legislature should pass SB 239 without delay and implement it as swiftly as possible.