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#MyNurseChat: A nurse’s role in medical aid in dying with Dr. Leah Curtin

By: Lydia L. Kim, Digital Content Editor

Recently, American Nurse launched its first ever #MyNurseChat which focused on the nurse’s role in end-of-life decisions, specifically medical aid in dying. We partnered with Dr. Leah Curtin on this topic as a companion piece to her article in the November 2019 issue of the American Nurse journal.

The main question we covered during the chat was: “What is a nurse’s moral obligation when a patient requests assisted suicide?” Dr. Curtin elaborates on the need for a nurse to be, at the very least, willing to explore the question with their patients. This type of question should not be communicated “via the chart,” and it’s the nurse’s duty to help their patients ask their physicians these types of questions.

In states where physician assisted suicide or medical aid in dying is legal, the request is required to come from the primary physician, so the nurse’s role, in Dr. Curtin’s perspective, is to provide as much care and support to the patient and their family as possible, and help find answers to their questions for them.

Participants in the Tweet Chat also shared their agreement for more supportive communication between healthcare providers and patients when this topic emerges. Much of our conversation with other Twitter users focused on the legal requirements of this end-of-life practice, with many nurses sharing resources or advice to others who may not have experienced this situation before (as, currently, only 13 states have legalized the practice of medical aid in dying).

In her November article, Dr. Curtin suggests that in the future, as the laws around medical aid in dying evolve, there is a need for a new role of healthcare providers to take on this practice.

Dr. Curtin has continuously provided American Nurse with excellent content, with many of the topics she covers driving rich dialogue with other nurses and healthcare providers. We were honored to have worked with her on this very first #MyNurseChat, and we encourage you to catch up on all of the questions we covered by visiting our Twitter page.

We would love to hear from you about other topics or ideas you’d like us to cover in future #MyNurseChats—tell us below in the comments section or through a Letter to the Editor.


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