Medical Aid in Dying laws provide the option for terminally ill, mentally capable adults to end their life when and where they choose using a prescription. These laws define a strict, voluntary process with multiple safeguards.
Medical Aid in Dying laws are sometimes referred to by the acronym MAID and are also called Death with Dignity laws. Ohio End of Life Options prefers to use the term Medical Aid in Dying. In the United States, these laws always apply only to adults with terminal illnesses.
There are strict eligibility requirements. A patient must be an adult, have six months or less to live, be able to make an informed healthcare decision, and be able to ingest the medicine unaided. Two doctors must agree that the patient is mentally capable of making the decision.
Patients are protected by more than a dozen safeguards. Two doctors must confirm that the patient has six months or less to live—due to a terminal illness and not because of age or disability. Two doctors and two independent witnesses, one of whom is not an heir, must confirm that no coercion exists.
Medical aid in dying laws are administered on a state level. These states have passed laws: Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Maine, California, Colorado, plus Washington D.C. Medical aid in dying is legal in Montana through a court ruling rather than a law.
All medical aid in dying laws in the U.S. are similar and modeled on the Oregon Death with Dignity Act passed in 1994, the first law passed in the U.S. The safeguards of these laws have proven effective. Not a single claim of abuse or coercion has ever been filed in any state.
Medical aid in dying is optional. It is optional for patients and healthcare providers. No person is required to use it and no doctor is mandated to prescribe the medication. All healthcare providers: doctors, nurses, pharmacists, may opt-out of working with patients to obtain the prescription.
The patient is in control. Only the patient can request the prescription. Additionally, the patient must be able to take the medication unaided. Once the prescription is obtained, a person can then choose not to take it.
Medical aid in dying improves end-of-life care. Evidence shows that palliative or comfort care is improved for patients and families in states with medical aid in dying laws. The vast majority of patients who obtained a prescription were also using hospice care.
Medical Aid in Dying can provide comfort and control when a patient is facing the uncertainties and suffering of a terminal illness. Patients report that just having this option relieves fear and anxiety—even for those who never choose it.