HEALTH

For terminal patients, a barrier may be a state line in helping to die

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For terminal patients, a barrier may be a state line in helping to die

“Fifteen days is everything when you suffer,” said Kim Callinan, president and chief executive of Compassion & Choice, which supported the change. “Those who are deserving of the law are beating up the odds and the odds.”

For example, in 2016, Joseph Cohen, a political scientist at New York University, took the extraordinary step of using Oregon law to go nationwide because he was dying of mesothelioma at the age of 68. “He wanted the option to determine the end of his life,” said his wife, Lindsey Wright, who is an associate dean at the university.

To establish residency, the couple must quickly sign an apartment lease, obtain an ID from the state motor vehicle agency, transfer medical records, and make an urgent appointment with a Portland doctor to qualify for medical assistance in dying. had to be arranged. Then Dr. Cohen faced a 15-day waiting period.

“He didn’t make it,” said Dr. Wright. “He died six days after we arrived. And he had to suffer.”

A 2018 study from Kaiser Permanente Health System in Southern California showed that nearly a third of eligible patients died before the procedure could be performed.

New Mexico, which became the most recent state to legalize medical aid in dying in June, has taken a markedly less restrictive approach than other states. The largely rural state is the first to allow not only doctors but advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants to determine eligibility and write prescriptions for the deadly drug. “In some communities, they are the only provider,” said Representative Deborah Armstrong, a Democrat and the primary sponsor of the bill.

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Although a doctor must also confirm that a patient is terminally ill, New Mexico patients can skip that step if they are already enrolled in hospice, as most do. The patient is required to make only one written request, rather than two or more requests, as other states require. The waiting period of 48 hours between writing and filling out the prescription can be waived. “People walk up and tell me how grateful they are to have this option if they need it,” Ms. Armstrong said.

California has also simplified its 2016 law. In October, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation that, starting in January, reduces the 15-day wait between oral requests to 48 hours and eliminates the need for a third written “verification.”

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