Legalizing Medical Aid in Dying: Past, Present, and Future

UNLV Health Law Program’s 2024 Conference Examines Aid in Dying Locally, Nationally and Internationally

On February 1 and 2, the UNLV Health Law Program, a partnership between the William S. Boyd School of Law and UNLV School of Public Health, will host a health law conference that focuses on the past, present and future of legalizing medical aid in dying.

In recent years, the number of states allowing terminally ill patients to access life-ending medication has expanded. Currently, ten states and Washington, D.C. have legalized medical aid in dying and legalization is being considered by several other states.

In 2023 in Nevada, state legislators passed SB 239, an aid-in-dying bill. The bill was vetoed by Governor Joe Lombardo.

Dr. David Orentlicher, Director of the UNLV Health Law Program and Nevada Assemblymember, said the conference will focus on what has been learned and seen from other states and countries passing these types of laws.

“We’ll talk about the history and the evolution of laws regarding aid in dying,” said Orentlicher. “We’ll discuss why we’re seeing a trend in favor of legalization, how the law has reflected the moral concerns at stake, and what the experience in other states and countries tells us about the effects of legalization.”

The conference will kick off on February 1 with a panel discussion at the Thomas and Mack Moot Courtroom on “Legalizing Medical Aid in Dying in Nevada” featuring State Senator Edgar Torres, the primary sponsor of SB 239; Barry Cole, M.D., a Reno psychiatrist who testified in opposition to SB 239; Ihsan Azzam, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Medical Officer for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services; and Hanna Olivas, CEO & Co-Founder of She Rises Studio and Founder of the Brave & Beautiful Blood Cancer Foundation. The panel will be moderated by William S. Boyd Professor of Law, Leslie Griffin.

On February 2, the conference will continue virtually with presentations on:

  • Moral Considerations and Legal Landscape for Aid in Dying (Legislative and Judicial) - David Orentlicher, M.D., J.D. (Director, UNLV Heath Law Program; Judge Jack and Lulu Lehman Professor of Law; Nevada State Assemblymember),
  • Aid in Dying from the Perspective of a Physician Who Provides the Service - Diana Barnard, M.D. (Associate Professor of Family Medicine, Lead Palliative Care Physician, University of Vermont Health Network Porter Medical Center),
  • The Experience in Canada with Legalized Aid in Dying - James Downar, M.D. (Head and Professor, Division of Palliative Care Department of Medicine, University of Ottawa; co-chair of the Pan-Canadian Palliative Care Research Collaborative and the Secretary of the Canadian Critical Care Society), and
  • The Experience in Oregon and Other U.S. States That Have Legalized Aid Dying - Charles Blanke, M.D. (Professor of Medicine Oregon Health Sciences University, Knight Cancer Institute; Chair, SWOG Cancer Research Network).

To register for the conference, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2024-unlv-health-law-program-legalizing-medical-aid-in-dying-tickets-778392351477.