KY Doctors Voice Support for Medical Aid in Dying Option / Public News Service

Geriatric medicine doctors say they see Kentuckians with advanced cancer and other serious illnesses traveling out of state to end their lives on their own terms.

This may mean going to Oregon, which since last week will be no longer requires a person to establish residency to be eligible for medical assistance in dying.

Oregon is one of the 10 statesas well as 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 that most of his patients are terminally ill and between the ages of 80 and 90. year. She said Kentucky doctors want to expand options for these patients and their families.

“We can certainly help with a lot of the pain and the symptoms, and take care of the patient and their family as they need care,” Furman explained. “But there are those patients where, you know, you just can’t.”

A recent survey from the non-profit organization Compassion & Choices found that voters, nationally and from all parties, are eight times more likely to vote for candidates who sponsor or support medical aid legislation in die.

The American Medical Association opposes to the practice, however its Code of Medical Ethics affirms that the pro and con positions are in moral balance and says that physicians can participate in medical assistance in dying without violating their ethical obligations.

Furman notes that it’s common for terminally ill patients to refuse food or water, a sign they’re ready to end their lives.

“I’ve never heard anyone intentionally say, ‘OK, I’m going to stop eating and drinking, then I’ll die quicker. I’ve had people say they’re just ready,” Furman recounted. “They’ve made the decision, they’re ready to die, they don’t want life-prolonging treatments.”

She added that physicians across the state are increasingly aware of the importance of expanding end-of-life options for patient agency, comfort and care.

“We have a palliative medicine fellowship at the U of L, and we teach that in our fellowship, what medical assistance in dying is,” Furman pointed out.

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

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