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Nevada Governor Vetoes Assisted Suicide Bill

'Expansions in palliative care services and continued improvements in advanced pain management make the end-of-life provisions in SB 239 unnecessary,' said Joe Lombardo

Governor Joe Lombardo vetoed an assisted suicide bill passed by the Nevada legislature.

Senate Bill 239 would have allowed doctors to help state residents with suicide.

“End of life decisions are never easy. Individuals and family members must often come together to face many challenges — including deciding what is the best course of medical treatment for a loved one,” wrote Lombardo in a letter explaining his decision. 

“Fortunately, expansions in palliative care services and continued improvements in advanced pain management make the end-of-life provisions in SB 239 unnecessary,” Lombardo continued. “Given recent progress in science and medicine and the fact that only a small number of states and jurisdictions allow for similar end-of-life protocols, I am not comfortable supporting this bill.”

Lombardo is the first governor in the nation to veto an assisted suicide bill.

The Nevada Senate passed SB 239 11 to 10 in April and the Assembly 23 to 19 in May. The bill “authorizes a  patient  to  request  that  his  or  her attending practitioner prescribe a medication that is designed to end his or her life.”

The patient must be 18, have been diagnosed with a terminal condition by at least two doctors, have made an “informed and voluntary” decision to kill themselves, and be mentally capable of making a decision. The patient cannot be found to have been coerced, deceived, or under the influence when requested to terminate his or her life. 

According to the policy, a “mentally capable adult patient should have the right to self-determination concerning his or her health care decisions” and “patients with a terminal illness may undergo unremitting pain, agonizing discomfort and a sudden, continuing and irreversible reduction in their quality of life.”

Doctors and pharmacists who dispensed the medication used for assisted suicide could not be criminally charged, face a civil penalty, or be subjected to professional discipline. 

Proponents of assisted suicide legislation argue the policy helps patients who are suffering without hope of a cure. Some opponents object on religious grounds while others argue the practice violates medical practitioners’ oaths to do no harm.

Assisted suicide is legally permitted in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, D.C. The practice is opposed by the American Medical Association.

Most recently, Vermont granted a Connecticut woman with cancer the right to seek assisted suicide without establishing in-state residency. Oregon is currently the only state in America that allows out-of-state residents to seek assisted suicide. Oregon was the first state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide in 1994 when it passed its Death with Dignity Act.

Vermont may become the second state to end its residency requirement.

In February, Vermont’s House Human Service Committee unanimously approved a motion to remove the residency clause from the Patient Choice and Control at the End of Life Act.

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