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Next Generation of Doctors Ready to Learn Medical Aid in Dying

Dr. Ryan Spielvogel

Dr. Ryan Spielvogel

Patient access has been at the heart of the challenges facing the medical aid in dying movement in the United States. One of the main factors contributing to this access crunch continues to be the relative rarity of providers who feel adequately trained to provide medical aid in dying services to their patients. Therefore, patient access begins with adequate provider training in medical aid in dying. This sentiment is underscored by the recent article “Assessment of Internal Medicine Resident Perspectives on Medical Aid-in-Dying in Future Practice” by Drs. Pham, Daddato and Lum in the Journal of Palliative Medicine. In the article, the authors surveyed internal medicine residents and found some striking yet unsurprising results. 81% of respondents reported being somewhat or very interested in receiving training in medical aid in dying, while 74% reported feeling somewhat or very unprepared to provide this service.

The most important number in this study though is 34%. That was the percentage of residents that responded they would be somewhat or very likely to serve as consultant or primary physician for aid in dying in the future. Considering that only about 1% of physicians in my large institution provide all of the aid in dying services, 34% is a staggering number. However, the only way for those 34% on the survey to turn into 34% in practice is with adequate training. With it, that 34% would likely grow closer to the 81% who were interested in receiving the training. But without it, the 34% will dwindle to only those passionate enough about aid in dying to seek out the training themselves.

Medical aid in dying is a service that our patients want and that our future physicians want training in. This study highlights that fact and the imperative that must be placed on residency training in medical aid in dying to fix the access crunch. In the immortal words of Whitney Houston, “The children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.”

Dr. Ryan Spielvogel is a Family Physician in Sacramento, CA