Nevada Passes Bill To Allow Assisted Dying

Nevada’s legislature has passed a law that allows terminally ill patients to obtain medication that will end their lives.

The Nevada Assembly confirmed SB 239 on Wednesday by a vote of 23 to 19. It was approved by the Nevada Senate in April with a vote of 11 to 10. The bill will now be sent to Republican Governor Joe Lombardo for his signature.

A bill allowing for medicated assisted death has never been vetoed by another governor. Currently, nine states, including Washington, D.C., allow for assisted death: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Lombardo has been urged to sign into law the bill by terminally ill Nevada women. Lynda Brooks Bracey, a 57 year-old woman with metastatic pancreatic carcinoma who lives in Las Vegas invited the governor, to stay with her the week before she died, to “see what my family and I have to endure before you make your decision.”

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Hanna Olivas (49), also from Las Vegas and living with incurable cancer of the blood, asked Lombardo, “as this bill brings much-needed peace to the hearts of the patients.”

Nevada’s governor has yet to indicate whether or not he will be signing the bill. Newsweek contacted Lombardo’s office by email on Thursday for a comment.

The issue of assisted suicide is controversial around the world. Medical practitioners are forced to reconcile their ethical beliefs and their oaths to protect life.

Some campaigners claim that people who seek help to end their lives are suffering from incurable diseases that make it impossible for them to lead a fulfilling life. Others say that assisted suicide can be used against the will of a person if they are unable express themselves.

The American Medical Association opposes assisted dying, which is illegal in many countries.

SB 239 states that “a mentally capable adult patient has the right to make decisions about his or her own health care” and adds “patients who are terminally ill may experience unremitting suffering, continual and irreversible decline in quality of life, and agonizing pain.”

A person over 18 years old who wishes to die must make two written and verbal requests to their doctor before they are prescribed life-ending medications. If the person chooses to end their life, they will have to administer that medication themselves.

SB 239 also prohibits medical practitioners, including pharmacists who dispense the medication, to be subject to disciplinary action or civil or criminal penalties.

Campaigners who had been pushing for the legalization of medical assisted death in Nevada welcomed Wednesday’s result.

Sara Manns said that it had taken eight years to pass the bill since its introduction in 2015.

She said, “The people in Nevada hope Governor Lombardo signs this urgent, compassionate bill to allow dying Nevadans to choose to die peacefully and not painfully.”

Local opposition is preventing the bill from becoming law. As of 8:40 am, a petition started on May 5 asking Lombardo for vetoing the bill had received 7,161 signatories. ET on Thursday.

The petition states: “It is a sad reality that doctors encourage and enable those who deserve to be loved and cared for to give up their lives.” The petition states that “just because someone is mentally ill or in pain, it does not mean their life is worthless, and that suicide is an option.”

The bill, despite being spearheaded by Democratic State legislators, appears to enjoy broad support from across the political spectrum.

A survey of 600 Nevadan voters conducted by Susquehanna polling and research between April 10-13 found that 98 percent agreed with the statement. Patients, after consulting their doctors and family members, should have the right to choose how to end their lives. Only 2 percent thought it should be up to government. Eighty-two per cent supported the bill.

Compassion & Choices commissioned the study and noted that Republican voters supported the legislation at a higher rate (78%) than Democrat voters (76%), who backed the proposal.