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State Lawmakers May Soon Consider Ethics of Medicaid Aid in Dying

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Should doctors help terminally ill patients end their lives? That’s a moral debate that’s about to unfold in Richmond.

Medical aid in dying. That’s the practice of allowing terminally ill patients to receive lethal drugs to bring about a peaceful death. Advocates for medical aid in dying say Virginia should join the states that have legalized the practice.

“I think it’s ethical to help people minimize their suffering.”

That’s Dr. Patrick Neustatter of Woodford. He’s with a group called Compassion and Choices.

“And I don’t think that taking somebody’s live contravenes that. I don’t think that keeping people alive as long as you possibly can is necessarily the aim of good medical practice.”

That’s a view not everyone shares. Diane Coleman is president and CEO of a group called Not Dead Yet that opposes physician-assisted suicide.

“There’s no way to avoid the fact that some people will have their lives ended without their consent through mistakes, coercion and abuse.”

After the Joint Commission on Health Care declined to recommend legalizing medical aid in dying, Delegate Kaye Kory told a newspaper she would not introduce the bill this year. But the overwhelming response she got in favor of the initiative, she says, caused her to change her mind. Now she says she plans on introducing the bill anyway, prompting an important discussion even if it fails to make it to the governor’s desk.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.