End-of-life medication bill stalls

Lawmakers declined to move a bill from committee to general file April 4 that would allow terminally ill patients to access aid-in-dying medications. The bill was heard by the Judiciary Committee on Feb. 24 but the committee has taken no action on it.

Under LB1056, introduced by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, an adult diagnosed with a terminal illness with less than six months to live and capable of making his or her own medical decisions could request a prescription for aid-in-dying medication. The medication would be self-administered by the patient.

Chambers filed a motion to place the bill on general file so it could be considered by the full Legislature despite being held in committee. He said LB1056 offers a person diagnosed with a terminal illness the opportunity to maintain his or her dignity during the last six months of life.

“For the government to withhold from such a person the right and means to carry out his or her final decision is totally unjustified, inexcusable and unacceptable,” he said. Depriving a person of that choice because the decision does not “sit well” with others is insensitive and cruel, Chambers said.

Grand Island Sen. Mike Gloor opposed the motion to place the bill on general file. He said medical providers should be given time to fully realize advances made in end-of-life care.

“There is a science here that ensures people do not have to suffer in any pain,” Gloor said. “We do not need to make the leap to assisted suicide.”

An attending physician would determine if the patient requesting aid-in-dying medication has a terminal illness, has made the request voluntarily and is qualified to receive the medication. Upon reaching a qualifying determination, the attending physician would refer the patient to both a consulting physician for confirmation of diagnosis and a mental health professional for confirmation of mental capacity capable of making medical decisions.

The motion to place LB1056 on general file failed on a 9-28 vote.

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