A bill that would have legalized assisted suicide in Nevada died in an Assembly committee as the 2017 legislative session expired.
The Nevada Assembly Committee on Health and Human Services chose not to advance the bill on Tuesday, the last day of the legislative calendar. The state Senate voted in May to approve the "medical aid in dying" bill by an 11-10 vote. Nevada could have become the seventh state along with Washington, D.C., to allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally ill patients; instead, it became the 16th state to reject the measure in 2017.
Opponents of the bill praised lawmakers for refusing to advance it to the Assembly floor, which Democrats control 27-15. Dr. Brian Callister, a professor at the University of Nevada-Reno School of Medicine and former head of the Nevada Medical Association, campaigned against the bill and appeared in an ad saying it could lead to insurers denying costly life-saving treatments to patients with severe but treatable conditions. Callister told the Washington Free Beacon that he credited "a broad-based, diverse, and dedicated coalition of leading physicians, nurses, the disabled, and patient care advocates" for the victory.
"The truth is that this is bad policy—it hurts patients, it hurts families, and it limits choice and access to care," he said. "It needs to be vigorously opposed at every opportunity."
Supporters of the bill were disappointed by the result. Kat West, national director of policy and programs at the pro-assisted suicide Compassion & Choices, had urged committee lawmakers to advance the bill during a Memorial Day hearing. She said that the Senate's action represented a step in the right direction for the debate and indicated that a "groundswell is building."
"We are deeply disappointed that the bill did not move forward this session, but at the same time, we are heartened by the significant progress in advancing medical aid-in-dying legislation in Nevada," she said in a statement. "Unfortunately, for some terminally ill Nevadans who are fighting for the option it will mean unnecessary pain and suffering. That is the real cost of putting the legislation off."
J.J. Hanson, president of the Patients Rights Action Fund, helped organize opposition to the bill in the Senate and Assembly. Hanson, a Marine veteran battling brain cancer, said that lawmakers of both parties agreed that such policies took advantage of "vulnerable patients."
"Nevada's assisted suicide proposal failed and didn't even receive an Assembly committee vote due to opposition from both Democrat and Republican legislators," Hanson said in an email. "Assisted suicide laws put the most vulnerable patients at risk, and we are thankful that this bill died in the face of more examples that health insurance companies utilize these laws to deny life-saving treatment and increase their profits."
Supporters say that they intend to reintroduce the legislation at Nevada's next legislative session, which will not take place until 2019.