Legislation in Kentucky would give a person who has a terminal illness but is of sound mind the ability to request a medication they could self-administer to end their life at a time of their choosing.
Kentuckians who have traveled to places where medical aid in dying is legal in order to help a loved end their suffering say they support the bill.
In 2019, Deborah McElhannon traveled from Shelby County all the way to Switzerland with her husband, whose metastatic kidney cancer left him in unbearable pain, to receive what she called “compassionate relief.”
“Within fewer than 30 seconds he was asleep,” said McElhannon. “And in less than another minute he was gone. He had said many times during his illness, ‘I just want to go to sleep and end this.’ And it was as quick and peaceful as he wanted.”
A 2020 Medscape survey found 55% of more than 5,000 doctors said they believe medical aid in dying should be available.
However, the American Medical Association maintains its opposition to this end-of-life option, calling the practice “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.”
The bill’s primary sponsor, state Rep. Josie Raymond — D-Louisville — said the bill offers ways to help terminally ill Kentuckians talk openly and honestly about end-of-life options with their medical providers and families.
“We believe that it’s a compassionate,” said Raymond, “and badly needed solution for families, for caretakers, for patients, who are suffering unnecessarily.”
Jefferson County resident Kate Cunningham and her husband temporarily moved to Washington State last year so he could receive medical end-of-life care.
She explained he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2016, and after chemotherapy, survived only on liquid nutrition.
Last spring, he was diagnosed again, this time with an untreatable form of esophageal cancer.
“We don’t treat our pets that way,” said Cunningham. “We should not treat loving partners that way, just force them to starve themselves to death to rid themselves of terminal illness.”
In a 2020 Gallup poll, nearly three-quarters of Americans said they support the option of medical aid in dying, for themselves or loved ones.
Nine states have already passed laws to legalize it.
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