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KY Doctors Voice Support for Medical Aid-in-Dying Option

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Monday, April 4, 2022   

Doctors who specialize in geriatric medicine say they're seeing Kentuckians with advanced cancer and other serious illnesses travel out of state to end their lives on their own terms.

It may mean going to Oregon, which as of last week will no longer require a person to establish residency to be eligible for medical aid in dying.

Oregon is one of 10 states, along with the District of Columbia, where the practice is legal.

Dr. Christian Furman, medical director of the Trager Institute and Smock Endowed Chair in Geriatric Medicine at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, explained most of her patients are terminally ill and in their 80s or 90s. She said doctors in Kentucky want to expand the options for these patients and their families.

"We can definitely help with a lot of the pain and symptoms, and taking care of the patient and family as they need care," Furman explained. "But there are those patients where, you know, you just can't."

A recent poll from the nonprofit Compassion & Choices found voters, nationwide and across party lines, are eight times more likely to vote for candidates who sponsor or support medical aid-in-dying legislation.

The American Medical Association is opposed to the practice, however its Code of Medical Ethics affirms that pro and con positions are in moral equilibrium and says physicians may participate in medical aid in dying without violating their ethical obligations.

Furman note it is common for terminally ill patients to refuse food or water, a sign they are ready to end their lives.

"I've never had anybody intentionally say, 'OK I'm going to stop eating and drinking, so I'll die quicker.' I have had people say, they're just ready," Furman recounted. "They've made the decision, they're ready to die, they don't want any life-prolonging treatments."

She added physicians in the state are becoming more aware of the importance of expanding end-of-life options for patients' agency, comfort and care.

"We have a palliative medicine fellowship at U of L, and we teach this in our fellowship, what medical aid in dying is," Furman stressed.

Rep. Josie Raymond, D-Louisville, introduced a bill earlier this year, which would legalize the option in Kentucky.

Disclosure: Compassion & Choices contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Health Issues, Senior Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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