Approximately 74 million people in the United States reside in a jurisdiction where they have access to medical aid in dying — 1 in 5 Americans. Another 87 million live in 14 states where medical aid in dying (MAID) bills have been introduced in state legislatures.
A recent research letter, “Aggregating 23 years of data on medical aid in dying in the United States,” published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, provides insight into the use of MAID over the last 23 years. The researchers aggregated data from nine United States jurisdictions with MAID laws and publicly available records from 1998 to 2020. The report is revealing.
The researchers found that during the past 23 years:
8,451 received a prescription and 5,329 of these patients died after taking the MAID medication
More men than women took the medication (53.1% vs. 46.9%)
The median age at death of those who took the medication was 74
Close to 96% of those who took the medication were non-Hispanic whites
Over 70% of patients who received a prescription had at least some college education
74% of patients who obtained the prescription had cancer
87.2% of patients who took the medication were enrolled in hospice/palliative care
Whether the differences regarding race, education and diagnosis result from patient preferences or systemic bias is unclear; the authors note “it is plausible that MAID laws, regulations, and clinical processes have been established that unintentionally make it more difficult for patients with less education, from minority backgrounds, or from non-cancer diagnoses to participate.”