A bill has been re-introduced at the Minnesota Legislature that would give terminally-ill patients access to medication to end their lives — but the measure has little chance of passing. Karen Warren of Minneapolis, who has Multiple System Atrophy — a degenerative disease of the nervous system — says denying the option is cruel. Warren says to lawmakers, “Listen to us, your constituents, who are facing a certain, painful death. Permit us the peace of mind that comes with knowing that we can decide when enough is enough.”
Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life warns that legalizing what it terms assisted suicide would open the door to new kinds of pressure and coercion. The group says Oregon statistics show 40 percent of those obtaining life-ending medications have expressed concern about being a burden on family and friends.
Bill sponsor, Brooklyn Center Democratic Senator Chris Eaton and Roseville Democratic Senator John Marty were asked about religious arguments for their proposed legislation:
News release from the bill sponsors:
The 2107 End of Life Options Act
ST. PAUL, MN – Senator Chris Eaton (DFL-Brooklyn Center) and Representative Mike Freiburg (DFL-Golden Valley) along with several area citizens introduced the End of Life Options Act on March 1. The legislation permits terminally-ill adult Minnesotans, with the capacity to make medical decisions, to be prescribed an aid-in-dying medication if certain conditions are met.
“While palliative care and hospice programs provide great comfort to patients and work wonders for many dying people and their loved ones, there are times when even the best palliative options cannot alleviate pain and suffering,” Sen. Eaton said. “This legislation offers the dying person a choice to decide whether their pain and suffering is too great to withstand the pain.”
There are stringent guidelines to be eligible to request a prescription for the aid in dying medication. The individual must:
- Be an adult
- Be a Minnesota resident
- Have a diagnosis from his/her primary physician of incurable and irreversible disease which will, within reasonable medical judgement, result in death within six months.
- Be able to make medical decisions for themselves as determined by health professionals
- Voluntarily request a prescription for an aid in dying drug without influence from others
- Be able to self-administer (eat, drink, and swallow) the aid in dying drug.
The request must be made directly by the patient to the attending physician, and cannot be made on behalf of the patient through a power of attorney, an advanced health care directive, conservator, health care agent, surrogate, or any other legally recognized health care decision maker.
“This entire act is about choice and individual rights,” Rep. Freiberg said. “Under this act, terminally ill adults with no hope of a cure have the option to voluntarily request a prescription for medication from their doctor that they can decide to use to die peacefully if their suffering becomes unbearable. This legislation puts the decision-making power where it belongs: with the dying person.”
Medical aid in dying has been safely practiced for more than 30 years across six states in America, including Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, California and Colorado. “In these states, the law works as intended,” Sen. Eaton said. “Medical aid in dying is a safe and effective medical practice.”
News release from Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life:
ST. PAUL — The lives of elderly and severely ill persons and people with disabilities would be threatened under a proposal to legalize assisted suicide introduced in the Minnesota House of Representatives today. Because of the broad dangers of assisted suicide, the bill is strongly opposed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the state’s oldest and largest pro-life organization. H.F. 1885, authored by Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley, would overturn the state’s longstanding prohibition against assisted suicide. A similar bill, S.F. 1572, was introduced in the Minnesota Senate on Monday. “Our law against assisted suicide has protected vulnerable people for many years,” said MCCL Legislative Director Andrea Rau. “Minnesotans recognize that persons seeking help to kill themselves need immediate care, including medical and mental health care—not assisted suicide.” By legalizing assisted suicide, this bill would open the door to new kinds of pressure and coercion. In Oregon, which pioneered legal assisted suicide, 40 percent of assisted suicide victims have expressed concern about being a “burden” on family and friends, according to the Oregon Public Health Division. H.F. 1885 does not require the prescribing physician to even be present when the lethal dose is administered, and no witnesses to the death are required. No one would know if the person died against his or her will. If assisted suicide is legalized, it becomes the least expensive “treatment.” Public and private insurers may have a financial incentive to steer patients toward assisted suicide rather than life-enhancing treatment. This has already happened to some patients in Oregon, where some patients have been denied life-extending treatment by health care providers, and instead offered coverage of life-ending medication. The House bill relies on a terminal diagnosis, but such diagnoses are sometimes wrong. Legalizing assisted suicide encourages patients who would live for weeks, months, years or even decades to throw their lives away. “The broad dangers of legalizing assisted suicide must not be ignored,” Rau added. “The bill introduced today poses serious risks for Minnesotans. MCCL urges legislators to oppose this measure.”