Medical Assisted Suicide Bill Tabled?

Staff Report

Raleigh – A press release from Dying Right NC Executive Director Edmund Tiryakian states that “…a bipartisan bill to regulate Medical Aid in Dying (“MAID”) in NC which added safeguards not present in the legislation in place…appears to have been shelved.”

North Carolina House Bill 879 entitled “End of Life Option Act” would make physician-assisted suicide legal across the state. Currently, its only local sponsors in the area are Representative Susan C. Fisher (D) who represents part of Buncombe County and Representative Chuck McGrady (R) who serves Henderson and part of Buncombe.

In Tiryakian’s release, “…according to legal experts that only reaffirms the right of NC doctors to write lethal prescriptions for their terminally ill, mentally competent patients, provided they adhere to the prevailing medical standard of care.”

The NC Family Policy Council says on their website that ‘the End of Life Option Act would allow North Carolina residents 18 or older to request a prescription from their “attending physician” for a “terminal comfort care drug” that the patient would self-administer. The patient must be suffering from “an incurable and irreversible disease […] that has been medically confirmed by the attending physician and will, within reasonable medical judgment, result in death within six months.”’

They go on to state, ‘Although the bill contains a long list of safeguards against abuse, and protections for a “health care provider or pharmacist” who does not want to participate, critics decry the slippery slope that has historically followed in other states and countries. According to an article from The Daily Signal, “Physician-assisted suicide does not promote human dignity. Instead, it normalizes subpar and unethical care for those who are most vulnerable.”’

Tiryakian says that “HB879 would have added a requirement that all applicants for MAID first undergo a hospice evaluation, a requirement not in place anywhere in the US. This would only have made a virtue of the reality that over 90% of patients who end up seeking a MAID prescription in the 8 states with laws on their books are in fact enrolled in hospice when they make the decision to hasten their imminent death. HB879 would also have required a 10 day waiting period before a prescription could be written, and imposed detailed reporting requirements of all participating physicians to the NC Dept of Health and Human Services.”

He concludes, “Nevertheless, the House failed to act on HB879 and in so doing left in place North Carolina as one of two states (along with Montana) where MAID can be practiced by doctors adhering to their medical best judgment of the appropriate standard of care. While we believe that as a general matter, medical procedures are best left to the medical community without legislative intrusion, MAID is an area so fraught with emotions the statutory guidance include in HB879 would have been the preferred outcome.”


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