Death With Dignity

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You may have heard of Brittany Maynard, who at age 29 was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer. She had a partial craniotomy and a partial resection of her temporal lobe. However, cancer returned in April 2014, and her diagnosis was elevated to grade 4 with a prognosis of six months to live. She moved from California to Oregon to take advantage of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Law, saying she had decided that “death with dignity was the best option for me and my family.”

States with Death with Dignity. Oregon is not the only state that has “death with dignity;” other states are Washington, Vermont, New Mexico and Montana. As I write this article, a bill is on California Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk that, if signed, will authorize “death with dignity” in California.

Iowa Death with Dignity Act. In January of 2015, the Iowa Death with Dignity Act was introduced in the Iowa House of Representatives. The following are a few provisions of the proposed legislation:

  1. The patient must be 18 or over, with a prognosis of death in six months or less, must be competent, and must be an Iowa resident.
  1. The patient must voluntarily be making a fully “Informed Decision” to obtain a prescription to end his/her life. An Informed Decision includes: (a) diagnosis, (b) prognosis, (c) risks associated with the prescription, (d) probable result of taking the prescription, and (e) feasible alternatives including comfort care, hospice care and pain control.
  1. If the attending or consulting physician deems that the patient is suffering from a psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression, counseling will be required and a prescription will be withheld until the counseling determines that the patient is no longer suffering from a psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression.
  1. The patient must make three requests to receive a prescription for medication that the patient could take to die painlessly and peacefully in their sleep. The first two requests, which must be 15 days apart, may be oral; the last request must be in writing and must be witnessed by two disinterested persons. After receiving the written request, the physician must wait 48 hours before writing the prescription.
  1. The prescribed medication must be voluntarily self-administered.

Nothing happened to the bill in 2015 but it may be introduced in the Iowa legislature again.

For further information regarding “Death with Dignity.” Compassion & Choices is the leading nonprofit organization committed to helping everyone have the best death possible. They offer free counseling, planning resources, referrals and guidance, and across the nation work to protect and expand options at the end of life.

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