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Bill revives effort to legalize 'medical aid in dying' in Nevada

Nevada scored poorly in a new report on integrity in state government.
Ken Lund/Flickr
A palliative care doctor reassures a patient that she will do all she can to ease is pain and improve his comfort.

State lawmakers have called it many things over the years: right to die, death with dignity, medical aid in dying. No matter what they call it, attempts to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Nevada have all ended in defeat.

However, lawmakers are once again working to pass a measure that would allow terminally ill patients in Nevada to work with their doctors to end their life on their terms.

That effort, Senate Bill 239, is currently before the state Senate.

Two people very interested in the bill’s passage is Lynda Brooks-Bracey and her husband, Dr. Jeff Bracey. Lynda is a Las Vegas resident and a cancer patient. Also with them on State of Nevada was Dr. Joy Koch, a Northern Nevada physician who supports the bill.

Brooks-Bracey is a real estate agent and mother of four. She was skiing when she felt a pain in her abdomen.

"I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February 2021. And had had a physical six months prior and it was what I thought was in perfect health. So I've been down this path now for a couple of years and then was rediagnosis last August with metastatic pancreatic cancer. I am currently on palliative treatment, meaning I have done all the treatment that I can possibly do," she said.

Twenty years ago, her first husband died of leukemia at age 38.

"But ultimately, he passed away in in great pain, and there was nothing medically left that we can do. Now we have this option. Now we have SB 239 … and it's passed in many states to help those if they so choose to use it. And if they get into a situation that they want to use it, it would be there for them as another medical option that is now available in many states," she said. "I think Nevadans want it again, the polls have shown that, and I'm hoping to speak for those that can't be here today."

Her husband added, "I see her enthusiasm and I'm supportive of her cause I have not been through the loss of a spouse and watched it occur. And she has, and in my own mind, it's something that I'm not looking forward to. I don't pretend to know what that will feel like for the surviving spouse, nor do I pretend to know what it'll feel like for her in the situation of hopelessness and suffering."

Koch said it's sometimes hard for families to get on board.

"My experience is that families do take a little bit longer than patients to get on board with medical aid and dying," he said. "I think the patient sees their suffering and the desire to end their suffering, whereas the family sees the loss of their loved one. And they know it's coming anyhow, but it's a little harder for them to get on board. And interestingly, originally the concerns were that family members might pressure patients into medical aid in dying for their own convenience. And I've never seen that in the time I've been doing this work."

Hear more in the full interview above.

Guests: Dr. Jeff Bracey; Lynda Brooks-Bracey, Las Vegas resident and cancer patient; Dr. Joy Koch, Northern Nevada physician

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Paul serves as KNPR's producer and reporter in Northern Nevada. Based in Reno, Paul specializes in covering state government and the legislature.