CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Frustrated after Democratic lawmakers cancelled debate for the second time this week, patients and doctors rallied Wednesday at the Nevada Legislature against a proposal to legalize physician-assisted suicide.
University of Nevada, Reno medical professor Kirk Bronander and Republican Sen. Joseph Hardy of Boulder City were among the physicians who said at a press conference that life expectancy is not an exact science.
They argued a proposal to give life-ending drugs to terminally ill people if a doctor believes they have less than six months to live could cut those lives short by years.
“Knowing how I’ve diagnosed patients and given them a prognosis of six months or less, often because I want them to get the services that hospice provides, I am scared to death that this bill would then send them to a physician that will give them a prescription to kill themselves,” Bronander said.
Patients across the United States have advocated for the right to choose when they die, especially when death is an imminent certainty, saying terminal illnesses decimate quality of life and continued treatment brings towers of medical bills.
In Oregon, the first of five states to give the end-life option to terminally ill residents, state health officials have said many patients who have elected to end their lives cited concerns of being a financial burden on their families, friends and caregivers as a primary reason.
Opponents of those laws believe finances should be divorced from treatment decisions, let alone whether someone lives or dies.
A chronically ill patient from California diagnosed with diffuse scleroderma, pulmonary fibrosis and lupus among other conditions, Stephanie Packer has outlived terminal prognoses by two years. She is urging policymakers across the country to reconsider the “death-with-dignity” movement she says largely benefits insurance companies.
“They’re good businessmen; they’ll go for these assisted-suicide pills every time,” she said. “Maybe we should spend less time trying to kill patients and more time educating them.”
The sponsor of Nevada’s aid in dying bill, Sen. David Parks, pulled Senate Bill 261 from hearing schedules on Monday and Wednesday. The Las Vegas Democrat said he hopes to reschedule a hearing “in about two weeks.”
“Unfortunately, I have all these people who are constantly giving me revisions, and they’re good revisions, and I want to make it strong, the best bill it can be,” Parks said.
The postponements have saddled people who want to testify with repeatedly rescheduling their work and home lives to get to Carson City.
“It’s important for the majority party to be cognizant of the fact that people do travel long distances to testify before bills,” said Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, a Henderson Republican.
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