The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 13, 2013

Boomers Push Doctor-Assisted Dying in End-of-Life Revolt


"The baby boomers are aging, and we all have witnessed or are about to witness the death of our parents or people very close to us," said Barbara Coombs Lee, who runs the advocacy group Compassion & Choices, which lobbies for so-called aid-in- dying laws. "There is an attitude difference about the boomer generation. There is an expectation that we can be empowered and we can impact our fate."

Bills under consideration in northeastern states as well as in Kansas are modeled after laws in Washington and Oregon, the only two states that currently permit doctors to prescribe life- ending drugs. One of those, in New Jersey, is sponsored by Burzichelli's brother-in-law, state assemblyman John Burzichelli. Often referred to as physician-assisted suicide or doctor-aided dying, the movement has come a long way from the 1990s when Jack Kevorkian, a Michigan pathologist, was in the spotlight for hooking patients up to a homemade device that helped them administer lethal drugs.

In Oregon and Washington today, patients wishing to end their life must go through a series of steps that can take over a month to complete. Two doctors must determine a patient has fewer than six months to live and is of sound mind to decide to take the drugs. If patients show signs of depression or dementia, they must be evaluated by a psychiatrist. Patients must be able to self-administer the drugs, which are mixed with water to become a milky drink. Minutes after the drugs are taken, the patient falls asleep and, within a few hours, dies.

In Oregon, 77 were granted and took end-of-life drugs in 2012, less than 1 percent of all deaths, according to data from the Oregon Public Health Division. In Washington, which legalized the practice in 2008, the numbers are similar with 70 people dying in 2011 after ingesting the medicines, the state's department of health said.

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