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Tucson Opinion: Help competent, terminally ill Arizonans have medical aid in dying

Tucson Opinion: Help competent, terminally ill Arizonans have medical aid in dying

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

Arizona residents don’t have the same number of choices at end of life as those living in Oregon or Washington or Vermont or California or Colorado or Washington D.C. or Hawaii or New Jersey or Maine.

Why? Because between 1994 and 2019 those states, in the order mentioned, have passed a medical aid in dying (MAID) law. Montana also legalized it through their State Supreme Court in Baxter V. Montana.

Add New Mexico to the list: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed HB47 into law on April 8 to make MAID available.

The law is simple: it allows mentally competent terminally ill adults who have less than six months to live to purchase medication prescribed by their doctor to be taken if and when they choose a compassionate aid in dying.

It has detailed, built-in safeguards for patients, doctors and health-care institutions.

Safeguards vary slightly from state to state, but generally include needing two clinicians to confirm a patient meets the criteria, verbal and written requests with two witnesses and waiting periods.

A patient may change their mind at any time. Just the the existence of the law encourages discussions about palliative care, hospice and other end-of-life options such as voluntary stopping eating and drinking. It is available to 70 million people living in 10 states (plus DC) but not residents of Arizona.

Let’s do the numbers:

Number of complaints Disability Rights Oregon has received that a person with a disability has been coerced in the 20+ years since Oregon’s law was implemented: ZERO, according to Bob Joondeph, executive director of Disability Rights Oregon.

Percentage of Arizona residents that favor medical aid in dying: 56%, according to a Rocky Mountain Poll conducted by Behavior Research Center in 2015.

Percentage of Arizona physicians in favor of medical aid in dying: 53%, according to the Arizona Medical Association and Arizona Osteopathic Medical Association Joint Task Force on End of Life Care survey in 2016.

Percentage in national polling of those who favor medical aid in dying: 74%, according to a 2020 Gallup Poll.

In multiple national surveys, across multiple demographics including race, various age groups, political affiliation, political ideologies and religious affiliations (or no affiliation), people support having options to end their suffering. Yet, it is not available in Arizona.

A law has been proposed in the Arizona Legislature many times since 2003. This year it was HB2254 (sponsored by Tucson’s superstar Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley and co-sponsored by seven other legislators) and, as in the past, was not assigned to a committee.

Arizona End of Life Options is an all-volunteer, nonpartisan, grassroots organization endorsed by Compassion & Choices and Death with Dignity. Learn about the law and this end-of-life option. Join us to help pass this law in Arizona for Arizonans.

Mary Ganapol is an advocate and Southern Arizona Lead for Arizona End of Life Options. Learn more at https://azendoflifeoptions.org/


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