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Council passes memorial on Death With Dignity

Posted at 5:43 AM, Dec 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-16 07:43:02-05

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The Tucson City Council passed a memorial Tuesday night urging the Arizona State Legislature to consider what's often called the 'Death With Dignity,' or 'Aid In Dying' Act.

The memorial was drafted by City Attorney Mike Rankin. While it does not change any laws in Tucson, Rankin says it is an expression of political support.

The memorial was passed by councilors in a unanimous vote, and urges Arizona lawmakers "to consider legislation that would enable a mentally competent, terminally-ill adult to obtain a prescription for medication, which the patient may choose to self-administer, in the face of unbearable suffering, to advance the time of an approaching death."

Vice Mayor Karin Uhlich says the group Compassion & Choices approached city leaders a few months ago about the idea, and she requested that the issue be put on the agenda. The non-profit is a nationwide group that works to improve and expand end of life care.

Sanda Schuldmann Clark, a volunteer with Compassion & Choices, addressed the council on Tuesday. She says no one can escape death, and that we should have certain freedoms at the end of our lives.

"You should have a good death, and what is a good death is a personal thing," Schuldmann Clark said. "For me, it's a death that's without pain, that's not prolonged."

When asked why volunteers are asking the city council to support a 'Death With Dignity' now, Schuldmann Clark said "why not?" She says it's time for Arizonans to start a conversation about end of life rights.

Uhlich says they want to encourage legislators in Arizona to look at what's been done in other states. She believes that not all people will exercise the right if it's legal, but people should legally be able to make end of life decisions with their doctors and family.

Oregon, Washington and Vermont are the only three states that authorize the medical practice of enabling terminally-ill, mentally competent adult residents to receive a prescription for life-ending medication.

In 2014, a terminally-ill woman moved to Oregon where aid in dying drugs are legal. Brittany Maynard, 29, chose to die peacefully when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her story started a nationwide conversation. Opponents compare death with dignity to assisted suicide, saying there are other options like hospice care that should be considered.    

In September, Bisbee became the first city in Arizona to support the idea. Like the Tucson proposal, the measure passed by the Bisbee City Council did not change any laws but acknowledges support for end of life options in the state.

To view the memorial, click here.