LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Two Republican senators — both health care professionals — voted against a bill that would allow terminally ill patients to legally take a drug meant to kill them. But Senate Bill 239 (SB239) received committee approval on Tuesday.
On a 3-2 vote, SB239 passed in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. It now goes to the full Senate.
Republicans Robin Titus, a doctor with a family practice, and Jeff Stone, a pharmacist, opposed the bill.
“Obviously as a health care provider the last thing that Dr. Titus or I want to do is make anybody suffer,” Stone said. He represents parts of rural Clark County that make up the eastern half of the county.
Stone said medical professionals can alleviate suffering effectively and there are too many problems he has seen with similar legislation.
“This is not my first rodeo with this bill. This is something that I studied intentively in my prior tenure as a California state senator,” Stone said.
He listed several reasons he opposed it: botched suicides, insurance decisions that might prefer that patients kill themselves rather than ask for expensive drugs, and evidence that people have successfully “shopped” until they found a doctor willing to help. In one case Stone cited, a daughter looked until she found a doctor who would help end the life of her mother, who had dementia.
The bill has a number of requirements that must be met:
- The patient must be 18 or older.
- The terminal diagnosis must be made by two medical practitioners.
- The decision is “informed and voluntary.”
- The patient is mentally competent.
- The request is not “because of coercion, deception or undue influence.”
Amendments include provisions that allow a coroner to investigate a death — but they are not required to investigate.
SB239 also takes steps to remove associations with suicide, and it specifies that the cause of death is the terminal condition. The death would not be considered “mercy killing, euthanasia, assisted suicide, suicide or homicide when done in accordance with the provisions of this bill.”
Titus objected to that, saying Tuesday, “Certainly whether or not they chose to take their own life should be part of the documentation.” She said excluding that information skews data on what has traditionally been described as a kind of suicide.
“That’s just one of the many reasons I’ll be a ‘no’ on this bill,” Titus said. She represents five rural counties — Churchill, Douglas, Esmeralda, Lyon and Mineral — as well as a large part of northern Nye County.
Clark County Democrats Fabian Doñate, Roberta Lange and Rochelle T. Nguyen voted for AB239.