Frequently Asked Questions
Is there legislation in Illinois?
The Illinois Patient Options at End of Life Act has been drafted by the coalition but has not yet been introduced in the legislature. It is modeled after the successful Oregon Death With Dignity Act, which was passed in 1997 by Oregon voters.
How many states currently have this option?
Medical aid in dying is currently authorized in five states: California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
Who is eligible for medical aid in dying?
In order to qualify for medical aid in dying, a person must be terminally ill, over 18 and mentally capable. The process starts when a terminally person asks their physician to prescribe medication that must be self-administered to achieve a peaceful death.
How do laws ensure people are mentally capable of making such an important decision?
A terminally ill person’s physician and a second consulting physician must agree that the person is terminally ill (in their reasonable medical opinion are expected to die within six months). Both doctors must also agree that the person is mentally capable of making an informed decision. If either doctor has any doubts, the person must be referred for an evaluation by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, and the process may only proceed if that professional concludes in writing that the person is mentally capable of making an informed decision.
What if someone changes their mind?
Choosing to use medical aid in dying is not an impulsive decision. To ensure this, anyone may rescind their request at any time or choose not to take the medication. Furthermore, people seeking medical aid in dying must make three separate requests, two oral (separated by a waiting period) and one written. The written request must be witnessed by at least two people, at least one of whom must be unrelated to the dying person and without any expectation of financial interest in their estate.
What about other options for comfort care?
The coalition believes that all terminally people should have every medical end-of-life option available to choose from. To ensure this, the act mandates that physicians explain alternatives such as hospice and palliative care. In Oregon, where the law has been in place for almost two decades, the vast majority of people who use medical aid in dying are enrolled in hospice.
What happens if people choose not to take the medication?
In Oregon, the law is used by only a small percentage of dying people, and only one-third of those who receive the prescription take the medication. However, for those nearing the end of life, having this choice available makes all the difference. Just knowing that there is an option to end their suffering, should it become unbearable, frees terminally ill people from anxiety so they can focus on the time they have left.
The act mandates that people in custody of unused prescriptions dispose of the medication in accordance with federal take-back programs.
Are people at risk of going to jail for providing this option?
Doctors, nurses and loved ones are protected against prosecution, as this medical practice is not considered “assisting in a suicide" or “inducing suicide." Good-faith compliance with the act cannot be construed as unprofessional conduct or considered neglect.
Will health insurance companies stop providing alternative treatments?
No. In fact, the act prohibits insurance policies from being conditioned upon or affected by people using or not using the act.
What about life insurance?
The act makes clear that life insurance cannot be affected in any way by people using medical aid in dying. The law mandates that the death certificates list the underlying illness as the cause of death, like is done for other palliative care options and is a best practice established in Oregon.
Do healthcare providers have to provide this option?
No doctor, pharmacist or healthcare facility is obligated to participate in the act. A healthcare facility which declines to participate in the act, and which provides notice of this to physicians, may sanction any physician who participates in the act on its premises.