Physician-Assisted Suicide Debate Heads to the Minnesota Legislature

 

A bill that would bring physician-assisted suicide to Minnesota is scheduled to receive its first informational hearing Wednesday.

The hearing is scheduled for September 11 at 1:00 p.m. in room 200 of the State Office Building, which likely will be packed with protesters and supporters of the bill.

The Minnesota Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Minnesota Catholic Conference are encouraging their supporters to pack the room in opposition to the bill.

“People come to Minnesota from around the world in search of hope from our outstanding healthcare providers. Assisted suicide would undermine our world-renowned healthcare here in Minnesota. Our cities that have begun to build their reputation upon hope and healing will become known instead as a place where people come seeking drugs to kill themselves,” says an action alert being promoted by the two organizations.

They claim that the bill, House File 2152, would endanger the poor, elderly, and vulnerable through a lack of appropriate safeguards while allowing non-physicians to “prescribe death-inducing drugs.” The groups also take issue with the fact that HF 2152 does not require patients to be residents of Minnesota, which would “fuel suicide tourism.”

Their final objection is that the bill would coerce healthcare professionals and organizations into participating in the assisted-suicide process.

The national “Death with Dignity” organization, however, is asking supporters to testify in favor of the bill. According to the Associated Press, Barbara Coombs Lee, who helped write Oregon’s assisted-suicide bill, will be in Minnesota Wednesday to support the bill.

“People who want to access medical aid in dying in their terminal illness aren’t making a decision to die,” she said. “Their disease is taking their life. They have no choice about living or dying. Their death is imminent, and above all what they would like is some control over the timing of that death and how much suffering they’re made to bear before that death arrives.”

Coombs Lee said she considers the term “physician-assisted suicide” offensive, and instead prefers to refer to the practice as “medical aid in dying.”

The bill itself was introduced in March 2019 by State Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL-Golden Valley) and has 18 DFL cosponsors. Sponsors of the bill are informally calling it the “End of Life Option Act,” a title that opponents say is misleading.

In May 2017, the Minnesota Medical Association revised its policy on the practice and said it would oppose “any bill unless it includes specific protections detailed in the new policy.”

Freiberg acknowledges that the bill is unlikely to go anywhere in the Republican-controlled Senate, especially after Senate Minority Whip John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) said he plans to testify against the bill.

“I think people with disabilities should be pretty concerned,” Hoffman said.

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to anthony.gockowski@gmail.com.
Photo “Holding Hands” by Mercurywoodrose. CC BY-SA 4.0.

 

 

 

 

 

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