A Guidebook Helps Lawmakers Shape Policy about End-of-Life Issues

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's June 1997 decision denying a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide, discussion and decision-making on a range end-of-life issues passed to the individual states.

Working with the Center to Improve Care of the Dying at George Washington University the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) undertook a project in 1997 and 1998 to expand the availability of timely, objective information to state legislators, staff and the public on options for improving services to the terminally ill.

Key Results

  • NCSL produced and distributed 10,500 copies of a five-chapter guidebook on End-of-Life initiatives at the state level entitled State Initiatives in End-of-Life Care: Policy Guide for State Legislatures. The guidebook attempts to address a number of policy-related questions, in a neutral and objective presentation, including:

    • What do model laws legalizing assisted suicide look like?
    • What can states do to remove barriers to effective pain management?
    • What types of health care services are available to the dying, and what are their deficiencies?
    • How can advance-care planning be improved?
    • How have state task forces been effective in advancing discussions about End-of-Life care?
  • A panel of End-of-Life experts and legislators discussed key issues at an educational seminar held at NCSL's annual health care meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz. in December 1997.

  • NCSL's Health Policy Tracking Service provided online services and printed issue reports on a wide array of legislative and regulatory developments.

  • State Health Notes, NCSL's flagship health care bimonthly newsletter, included five featured articles on End-of-Life issues and other briefer coverage.