MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Mara Buchbinder, PhD
Department of Social Medicine
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7240
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: The legal landscape of medical aid-in-dying in the United States is changing rapidly. Just a few weeks ago, Hawaii became the 8th jurisdiction in the US to permit a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a terminally ill patient for the purpose of ending the patient’s life.
However, even in states where aid-in-dying is legal, patients still face substantial barriers to access. The Vermont Study on Aid-in-Dying, a qualitative, descriptive study of the implementation of Vermont’s assisted dying statute, found that patients encounter barriers concerning the safeguards built into the law, the cost of medication, the ability to find a physician willing to prescribe, and knowledge about the law.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Response: Many Americans think the main barrier to aid-in-dying is their state’s legal status. The scholarly literature and public conversations on aid-in-dying has drawn heavily on rights-based ethical and legal frameworks emphasizing patient autonomy in end-of-life decision making. Yet my research suggests that authorizing new legal rights is very different from ensuring access, and that access is hindered by persistent inequalities in the US health care system. These access barriers suggest that we ought to be considering justice as much as rights in public conversations about aid-in-dying, insofar as Americans do not have equal opportunities to realize their legal health care rights.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: More research is needed on the social, ethical, and regulatory challenges of implementing aid-in-dying laws.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Access to Aid-in-Dying in the United States: Shifting the Debate From Rights to Justice
Mara Buchbinder PhD
AJPH Published Online: April 19, 2018
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