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Compassion & Choices Committed to Bringing Medical Aid in Dying to Alaskans

HB 54, a Medical Aid in Dying Act, likely to be acted on by House Health and Social Services Committee

(Juneau) — House Bill 54, a Medical Aid in Dying Act, was heard before Alaska’s House Health and Social Services Committee last week. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage). The committee is expected to act on the issue.  

Compassion & Choices National Director of Policy & Programs Kat West, along with other supporters, participated in the hearing on March 29.

“This is important legislation,” West said following the hearing.  “It gives mentally capable, terminally ill Alaskans who have less than six months to live the option to obtain a prescription from their doctor to die peacefully in their sleep if they are experiencing unbearable suffering.  We applaud Rep. Harriet Drummond for sponsoring this bill.”  

Among the terminally ill people, family members and physicians joining Compassion & Choices to advocate for the legislation is Dr. Diana Barnard a palliative care physician who has years of experience with medical aid in dying. Speaking in strong support of the bill, Dr. Barnard pointed out that the experience in Oregon and the other authorized states has demonstrated that medical aid-in-dying laws are safe, compassionate, trusted and improve end-of-life care. Dr. Barnard concluded, “Having the option for a peaceful death provides tremendous solace for many dying patients. Most patients will not find the need to use medical aid-in-dying laws, yet we all benefit from the option to end terminal suffering should the need arise.”

If enacted, HB 54 would allow Alaska to join six other states and the District of Columbia in providing mentally capable, terminally ill adults with the legal right to request a prescription to bring about a peaceful death should they choose to do so. Oregon, where aid in dying has been legal for two decades, has been joined by Washington, Montana, Vermont, California, Colorado and Washington, DC.