More States May Let the Terminally Ill End Their Lives

10 states allow it to some degree and a dozen are considering it
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 13, 2024 11:32 AM CDT
More States May Let the Terminally Ill End Their Lives
Deb Robertson, left, reacts to a card made for her by a student of her daughter Shannon Rodriguez, right, as her son Jake and niece Emma look on at her in Lombard, Ill.   (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

On a brisk day at a restaurant outside Chicago, Deb Robertson sat with her teenage grandson to talk about her death. She didn't cry when she learned two months ago that the cancerous tumors in her liver were spreading, portending a tormented death. But later, she received a call. A bill moving through the Illinois Legislature to allow certain terminally ill patients to end their own lives with a doctor's help had made progress. It was then that she cried. "Medical-aid in dying is not me choosing to die," she told her grandson. "I am going to die. But it is my way of having a little bit more control over what it looks like in the end." That same conversation is happening beside hospital beds and around dinner tables across the country, as Americans who are nearing life's end negotiate the terms with themselves, their families and, now, state lawmakers. Per the AP:

  • At least 12 states currently have bills that would legalize physician-assisted death. Eight states and Washington, DC, already allow it, but only for their own residents. Vermont and Oregon permit any qualifying American to travel to their state for the practice. Patients must be at least 18 years old, within six months of death, and be assessed to ensure they are capable of making an informed decision.
  • Two states have gone in the opposite direction. Kansas has a bill to further criminalize those who help someone with their physician-assisted death. West Virginia is asking voters to enshrine its current ban into the state constitution.
  • That patchwork of laws has left Americans in most states without recourse. Some patients choose to apply for residency in a state where it's legal. Others take arduous trips in the late-stage throes of disease to die in unfamiliar places and beds, far from family, friends, and pets.
  • Opponents, including many religious groups and lawmakers, have moral objections with the very concept of someone ending their life. Even with safeguards in place, they argue, the decision could be made for the wrong reasons, including depression or pressure from family burdened by their caretaking.
  • Proponents lobbying for the bills argue that the issue is about autonomy and compassion, some power over one's preordained exit. "It comes down to the right of an individual to control their own end of life decisions free from government intervention or religious interference," said Geoff Sugerman, national campaign strategist for Death with Dignity.
Read the full story, with real-life examples and more from both sides of the debate. (Or read other stories about assisted death.)
(More assisted suicide stories.)

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