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Aid in Dying

At a recent conference, Colorado’s new “Access to Medical Aid in Dying” was discussed.  The presenters included a physician from Oregon, where the state’s “Death with Dignity” law has been in place for more than twenty years.  Also presenting was the administrator from a regional hospice company.

The hospice administrator offered a thoughtful perspective on current hospice protocols and the aid in dying that is already provided by this service.  Patients can live out their final weeks of life at home (if that is their choice), without pain, with constant access to nursing care, and can be surrounded by their loved ones during this time.  The presence of these services raises the question of whether an Aid in Dying provision is needed.

The physician shared the story of a patient diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) where mental and physical functions deteriorate to the point of failure.  The final weeks of ALS can bring extreme suffering for both the patient and their loved ones who witness the immobile body wasting away, the inability to eat or drink, the struggle to draw breath.

Below is a link to an article from the Denver Post that examines both sides of this important question.  Informing ourselves about the realities of aid in dying is the best way we can form a perspective on its value.