Consortium Webinar Explores Debate Over Physician Aid in Dying

Medical Aid In Dying
April 16, 2024

The Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences hosted a May 1 virtual Lecture Series titled “When Law, Ethics & Medicine Collide.” It was the first webinar in the series, “Considering Medical Aid in Dying,” and featured three international experts on the law, ethics, and clinical realities of medical aid in dying, both in the U.S. and Canada -- Thaddeus Mason Pope, JD, PhD (Mitchell Hamline School of Law); K. Sonu Giand, MD (University of Toronto); and Nancy Berlinger, PhD (The Hastings Center). They each brought different perspectives and disciplines to this important debate. Ten states and the District of Columbia currently have statutes on the books or a court decision that authorizes medical aid in dying (often called MAID) for adults who are terminally ill. Many additional states, including Minnesota, are debating similar legislation. First legalized in 1997 under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, these state statutes authorize doctors to prescribe lethal medication that the patient may choose to take. No U.S. state statute authorizes euthanasia. In 2016, Canada authorized both provision of a lethal prescription and euthanasia. Starting in 2027, Canada plans to enlarge eligibility to patients whose only underlying condition is a mental illness. Canada has faced significant pushback from human rights advocates and disability rights organizations, suggesting the nation’s legal framework lacks the necessary oversight and safeguards to protect vulnerable populations.