Right-To-Die Bill Still Alive In Legislature - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Right-To-Die Bill Still Alive In Legislature

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The Senate Health and Human Services Committee was scheduled to hear SB261, Wednesday, but the right-to-die bill was pulled from the agenda.  It was given an exemption, meaning it will not have to beat Friday's deadline for committee passage.  It can still be passed by June 5.  The bill would allow terminally ill patients to take a prescribed, lethal dose of drugs to end their life, if they have less than six months to live.

"If they want to stay alive, that's their choice but they should also have the right to end their life, peacefully, and not have to go through the really terrible things that modern medicine can do to you," Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas said.

Segerblom is one of the bill's sponsors, which was introduced by Sen. David Parks.  He says public opinion has shifted in favor of the bill, especially after California adopted the law in 2015.  That bill passed nearly a year after Brittany Maynard died.  She was a California resident who moved to Oregon, a state that had a "Death With Dignity" law in place.  She advocated for a similar bill in California.

"The public is much further ahead than the politicians," Segerblom said. "We're always a little bit afraid of our shadow but the fact is it's a common sense thing."

Critics say the bill presents too many unintended consequences.  Several people spoke against the bill at a press conference, Wednesday, including doctors and patients.

Stephanie Packer is battling scleroderma and pulmonary fibrosis.  She was diagnosed in 2012, and given a prognosis of three years to live. She says two days after California's law took effect, her insurance gave her a big shock.

"I was told they were no longer going to be covering my medications or the chemo anymore," Packer said. "It was a kick in the teeth."

However, she says her insurance would cover the drugs used for assisted suicide, with a co-pay of $1.20.

"They won't pay for me to have chemo to live longer for my kids, but for a buck I can kill myself," Packer said.

Packer has outlived her original prognosis by two years but her condition has gotten much worse in the past few months.  She gets around in a wheelchair and carries an oxygen tank.  The 34-year-old is married and has four children, ranging in age from eight to 13.  She says they are the reason why she wants to live every day she possibly can.

"I want to be here to go to the Little League games and school dances and all of these things that I haven't done yet with my kids," Packer said.

At Wednesday's press conference, doctors expressed their opposition to the bill, saying they promised to save lives, not end them.  They say the drugs used for assisted suicide can take anywhere from two minutes to several days to work.

"I can't think of anything more undignified than telling someone their remaining days are worthless, that we don't value their life," Dr. Brian Callister said.

Callister says 70 percent of Oregon's assisted suicide patients either had no insurance or a government-only plan.

Still, proponents say the bill should be an option.  Doctors and patients would not be forced to use the option, but they say it should be available for those who want it.

"The reality is that there are people that have terrible debilitating illnesses that life really is not worth living and they would rather die peacefully before they get to that really terrible last stage," Segerblom said.

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