Patients with cancer are the group most likely to use medical aid in dying (MAID) in the United States, according to research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Researchers analyzed data across 9 jurisdictions where MAID is legal in the US and found that 74% of MAID users had cancer. Patients who used MAID also tend to be older, were more likely to be White, and typically had some higher education.
The researchers noted that an estimated 74 million people in the US live in a jurisdiction that allows MAID, and another 87 million people live in 14 states where MAID is “on the legislative agenda.”
For this study, the researchers aggregated data from 9 US jurisdictions with MAID laws that had publicly available records from 1998 to 2020. During this time, 5329 patients died by MAID, and 8451 patients received a prescription for MAID.
The vast majority of patients who used MAID had cancer (74%), but 10.9% had neurological diseases, and 15.1% used MAID for other reasons.
Cancer was the most common reason for receiving a prescription for MAID as well (69.3%). However, 10.9% of patients had neurological diseases, 16.9% received a prescription for other reasons, and data were missing for 2.9% of patients.
“Individuals with cancer are over-represented among MAID utilizers,” the researchers noted. “In the United States, cancer accounted for 17.8% of all deaths in 2020, yet 74% of MAID deaths have a diagnosis of cancer.”
The researchers theorized that this disparity could be due to differences in prognostication, treatment burden, and hospice use between cancer and non-cancer populations.
This study also showed that MAID was used by more men than women (53.1% vs 46.9%). Most people using MAID were non-Hispanic White individuals (95.6%), most had at least some college education (72.2%), and the median age at death was 74 years.
Similarly, most MAID prescriptions (88.6%) were given to non-Hispanic White individuals. Most recipients of MAID prescriptions (71.6%) had at least some college education, and 43.3% were 65 years of age or older.
Kozlov E, Nowels M, Gusmano M, Habib M, Duberstein P. Aggregating 23 years of data on medical aid in dying in the United States. J Am Geriatr Soc. Published online June 16, 2022. doi:10.111/jgs.17925.