LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A law that allows terminally ill patients to legally take a drug meant to kill them was introduced Wednesday in Carson City.
Senate Bill 239 (SB239) carefully creates a path for terminal patients to end their own lives without requiring medical professionals to participate. The drug would only be administered by the patient, and after several steps to show they have a terminal condition and they are mentally competent to make the decision. No one could make the decision for them.
Nineteen Democrats in the Senate and Assembly have signed on as sponsors or cosponsors — but, notably, Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) is not among them.
Past legislative efforts have approached the matter as a “dignity in death” issue, but have typically had physicians administering the fatal drug. SB239 instead takes the matter out of doctors’ hands. If medical professionals don’t want to be involved in the decision at all, they are required to refer the patient to another professional.
Among the requirements:
- The patient must be 18 or older.
- The terminal diagnosis must be made by two medical practitioners.
- The decision is “informed and voluntary.”
- The patient is mentally competent.
- The request is not “because of coercion, deception or undue influence.”
The bill further requires the patient to make two verbal requests and a written request signed by a witness. The fatal dose must be dispensed by a physician or pharmacist — but administered by the patient. The legislation does not specify a drug that would be used.
The patient’s death certificate would state the cause of death as the terminal condition, the bill specifies. The death would not be considered “mercy killing, euthanasia, assisted suicide, suicide or homicide when done in accordance with the provisions of this bill.”
SB239 also specifies that insurance companies are prohibited from making refusing to sell, provide or issue a policy based on a patient’s interest in ending their life this way. Insurance policies must be honored, the bill indicates.
The bill prohibits prescribing a life-ending drug “based solely on the age or disability of the patient.”
The patient would have the authority to revoke the decision at any time.
The bill also exempts medical professionals from prosecution or professional discipline for being part of the process.
Sponsors of the bill — all Democrats — include senators Nicole Cannizzaro, Edgar Flores, Dallas Harris and Pat Spearman, along with assembly members Cecelia González, Michelle Gorelow, Duy Nguyen, Selena Torres and Howard Watts. Cosponsors are senators Skip Daly, Fabian Doñate, Roberta Lange, Rochelle Nguyen and Melanie Scheible, along with assembly members Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod, Max Carter, Lesley Cohen, Venicia Considine and David Orentlicher.