Rutgers School of Public Health conducted a first-of-its-kind study examining medical aid in dying laws. The study’s lead author, Elissa Kozlov, says that understanding the characteristics of the people who use the law is important because it raises questions about whether this end-of-life option is broadly and equitably available. The following are excerpts from the NJ.com story about this research:
Nearly 5,400 terminally ill people in the nation have used medical aid in dying laws to obtain prescription drugs to end their lives, a first-of-its kind study led by the Rutgers School of Public Health has found.
About 70% of the people who used the law to die over the last 23 years were diagnosed with cancer. They were also overwhelmingly white (96%), typically in their mid-70s, and educated — with three out of four having attended college or graduated with at least one a degree, according to an article in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society last month.
The 95 New Jerseyans who used the law to die since it took effect in August 2019 reflect the same demographics. Of the 50 people who died last year, 70% had a cancer diagnosis, 70% were college attendees or graduates, and 94% were white, according to Health Department data. (The 2021 state data was not available in time to be included in the Rutgers study.)
Understanding the characteristics of the people who use the law is important because it raises questions about whether this end-of-life option is broadly and equitably available, said Elissa Kozlov, the study’s lead author and an instructor at the Rutgers School of Public Health. The fact that minorities and people who did not go to college are not well represented may reflect personal choice. But it could mean the option is out of reach to them and the law is inequitable, she said.