Legal Rights Don’t Guarantee Right To Die Interview with:

Mara Buchbinder, PhD Associate Professor Department of Social Medicine University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7240 

Dr. Buchbinder

Mara Buchbinder, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Social Medicine
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7240 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. 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. 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. Thank you for your contribution to the 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

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions. 

[wysija_form id=”1″]






1 Comment
  • Bradley Williams
    Posted at 20:57h, 06 May

    Only 6 states and DC have laws to provide immunity to all involved including predatory corporations and others
    Correction please:Thankfully like 44 other states no one in Montana has immunity from prosecution for assisting a suicide, no doctor, nurse, care giver or guardian.
    The promoters of assisted suicide have done you a disservice. The promoters of assisted suicide have worn out their thesaurus attempting to imply that it is legal in Montana. Assisted suicide is a homicide in Montana. Our Montana Supreme Court did rule that if a doctor is charged with a homicide they might have a potential defense based on consent. The court acknowledged it is a homicide in the ruling
    The court did not address civil liabilities and vacated the lower court’s claim that it was a constitutional right. Unlike Oregon, no one in Montana has immunity from civil or criminal prosecution, death certificates are not legally falsified and investigations are not prohibited like in Hawaii, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and California. Does that sound legal to you?
    Perhaps the promoters are frustrated that even though they were the largest lobbying spender in Montana, their Oregon model legalizing assisted suicide bills have been rejected in Montana in 2011, 2013 and 2015. The predatory corporation withdrew from their bullying legislative position in 2017. They simply did not try a fourth time and we celebrate saving lives every day in Montana.
    What else have they spoke out of the side of their mouth? Oh dismissing reports of abuse like Thomas Middleton in Oregon. Or not providing a witness to the “self administration “ that they used as a sales pitch to deflect scrutiny. Or falsifying death certificates to remain stealth. Allowing heirs to guide the process. See more at MTaas org.