Medical aid in dying (MAID)– previously referred to as physician-assisted suicide (PAS)– “occurs when a physician facilitates a patient’s death by providing the necessary means and or information to enable the patient to perform the life-ending act,” according to the American Medical Association.
Oregon was the first state to legalize MAID after enacting the Death with Dignity Act on October 27, 1997.
Since then, eight states have followed suit in legalizing the aid via legislation– including California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington– while Massachusetts allows the practice only after a court ruling.
However, a recent analysis conducted by researchers at Rutgers School of Public Health in New Jersey has found that the medical right is overwhelmingly exercised by one dominant demographic group– white, well-educated patients with cancer diagnoses.
The study, which has since been published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, analyzed the five thousand three hundred and twenty-nine patients who used MAID since it first became legalized in Oregon twenty-three years ago.
The researchers found that over seventy-two percent of these patients received at least some higher education, nearly seventy-five percent had cancer, and over ninety-five percent were non-Hispanic whites.
The study’s lead author, Elissa Kozlov, explained how while these findings are not definitive of discrimination or unequal access, the disparity raises significant concern.
“We don’t know if these numbers reflect genuine underlying differences in group preferences or disparities in how laws are written or services are provided. But, such large differences in utilization are always a red flag that demands further investigation,” Kozlov said.
The researchers believe that a large accessibility barrier may be the cost of obtaining MAID. Eighty-six percent of the patients who died via MAID were over sixty-five years old.
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