In the wake of "right to die" advocate Brittany Maynard's death, the political conversation about death with dignity has gained new momentum. Maynard was a 29-year-old woman who became the face of the "right to die," movement when she publicly came out in favor of death with dignity laws, sharing that she moved herself and her family to Oregon to take advantage of its own law after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Maynard decided she would rather take her death into her own hands than continue to further degrade in health. People reported she died on Saturday, Nov. 2 in her home, surrounded by her friends and family.
The right to die movement aims to give patients facing terminal diseases or otherwise incredibly painful conditions the right to end their lives should their suffering become too great to bear. But what states support the movement's mission?
PAS: Montana, Oregon, New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington
While euthanasia is illegal in every state, some states allow physician assisted suicide (PAS). The difference between euthanasia and PAS boils down to who administers the drugs. Euthanasia implies a doctor administers the drug to the patient, whereas PAS requires the patient to voluntarily ingest the medication at their will. Montana, Oregon, New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington currently allow PAS. California, Michigan, and Maine have wrestled with their own bills, but have not passed them.
Death With Dignity: Oregon, Washington, Vermont
Death with dignity laws come with restrictions. In Maynard's home state of Oregon, the law states a patient must be diagnosed by two separate physicians with a terminal illness that will kill the patient within six months. In order to take advantage of the law, the patient must also be 18 or older, a state resident, and "capable of making and communicating health care decisions for him or herself."
Additionally, the patient must verbally request the medication more than twice, and also provide a written plea. Doctors are also obligated to inform the patient of alternatives, and ask (but not require) the patient to notify their family they have received the drugs. In Oregon, 1,173 people have been prescribed the drugs, and 752 have used them.
Other states' laws are identical or incredibly similar. Washington requires a formal psychological evaluation to determine whether the individual is making the decision with a sound mind. Vermont expressly requires the two doctors to be practitioners from within the state.
There are several organizations dedicated to aiding death with dignity legislation in the remaining 45 states that do not have them. Compassion & Choices is working directly with Maynard's family to establish The Brittany Fund, which supports the organization's efforts to help states legalize death with dignity, and provide aid to those in states that already have.
You can learn more about donating to Compassion & Choices and The Brittany Fund here.
Images: Screenshot (2), The Brittany Fund