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Proposed Medical-aid-in-dying legislation puts spotlight on terminally ill Kentuckians

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Medical-aid-in-dying laws that allow terminally ill individuals to end their lives peacefully using medication have passed in at least ten states, and Kentucky lawmakers are now considering similar legislation.

Rep. Josie Raymond, D-Louisville, introduced House Bill 506 last week, and said terminally ill Kentuckians experiencing unbearable pain currently have no options.

Medical aid in dying requires two health-care providers to confirm the patient is mentally sound and has six months or less to live due to terminal illness, not because of age or disability. (KyForward File)

“This has been something that I’ve cared about for a long time,” Raymond explained. “It goes back to people having control over the medical choices they make, particularly in the last months of their lives. And it hit home for me actually in 2019, when my grandfather, at 94 years old, shot himself in the head.”

Polls show across demographic and party lines, most Americans want the option of medical-aid-in-dying if they were in prolonged pain and suffering at the end of life.

State data show while less than 1% of people who die use this option, it can have a palliative effect, relieving end-of-life worry and providing comfort.

Raymond stressed the legislation only applies to people who are terminally ill, and felt confident the bill addresses various health and medical concerns, noting it includes protections against any kind of coercion or interference.

“I think very few people will fit these criteria, and then even fewer will choose to use it,” Raymond contended. “But knowing that this option is there to reduce suffering can give people a lot of peace in those last months of their lives.”

Norm Stewart, Kentucky action team leader for Compassion and Choices and a retired Unitarian-Universalist minister in Louisville, said the legislation would give end-of-life patients more agency.

“This bill makes it practical for people to talk to their doctors,” Stewart observed. “And get advice, and be honest and open and be open with their family when all the other options are gone.”

It’s been reported end-of-life options improve the quality of care among terminally ill adults by spurring them to engage in conversations with their physicians and have their needs and fears addressed.

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