Former Pawlenty staffer’s firm helps group advocating for assisted suicide

Advocates and opponents of an assisted suicide bill will hold dueling press conferences before a hearing Thursday.

Advocates and opponents of an assisted suicide bill set for a hearing in the state House on Thursday will hold dueling press conferences on the DFL-sponsored legislation. (Minnesota Department of Administration/Flickr)

Advocates and opponents of an assisted suicide bill set for a hearing in the state House on Thursday will hold dueling press conferences on the DFL-sponsored legislation.

At 11 a.m., Compassion & Choices Action Network, a national organization (formerly known as the Hemlock Society) that lobbies for assisted suicide legislation, will hold its press conference in the State Capitol complex ahead of a 1 p.m. hearing in the House on HF1930. Chief authors of the bill, Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley, and Sen. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven, are calling the legislation the “End-of-Life Options Act.”

The Oregon-based 501c4 is using the services of St. Paul-based firm Park Street PR for its public relations campaign on the Minnesota bill.

Park Street PR is led by veteran politico Brian McClung, a former deputy chief of staff and press secretary for Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

McClung, who serves as the firm’s CEO, booked the Capitol complex room at the time and date when the Compassion & Choices Action Network will hold its press conference. It lists Compassion & Choices Action Network as one of its clients on its website.

Freiberg is slated to speak on the legislation during the press conference. He will be joined by three advocates for the bill, all of whom Park Street PR describes in a media advisory as facing a terminal illness.

In the media advisory the firm cites a “State Fair Poll” the non-partisan Minnesota House of Representatives House Information Services conducted during the 2023 State Fair that shows those who visited the booth overwhelmingly responded “yes” to the following question: “Should terminally ill adults have the option to end their lives with the assistance of health care providers?”

A half hour earlier in another media room at the Capitol, Minnesota Alliance for Ethical Healthcare is holding a press conference to spell out its opposition to HF1930. The organization lists more than three dozen Minnesota-based organizations as its partners and has been organizing testifiers for the Thursday 1 p.m. hearing on the bill in the House Health Finance and Policy Committee. The 19-member committee is expected to vote on the bill following testimony. Members of that committee who have already signed on as sponsors to the bill include DFLers Robert Bierman of Apple Valley, Patty Acomb of Minnetonka, Kristin Bahner of Maple Grove, Steve Elkins of Bloomington, Amanda Hemmingsen-Jaeger of Woodbury, Liz Reyer of Eagan, and Andy Smith of Rochester. No Republicans have signed on to the legislation.

DFL senator from Champlin calls legislation ‘dangerous’

One DFL legislator in the Senate has come out in strong opposition to the bill. Sen. John Hoffman of Champlin authored an opinion piece published in the Star Tribune late last year calling the legislation dangerous. He’s also spoken out in opposition to medical aid in dying/physician-assisted suicide lobbying nationwide, citing a 2019 report from the National Council on Disabilities that criticizes a recent wave of assisted suicide legislation that Compassion & Choices Action Network has been pushing in more than two dozen states.

No Republicans in the House or Senate have signed on to the bill. Democrats hold a one-member majority in the Senate and a six-member majority in the House.

To date, 10 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws similar to the bill being pushed primarily by Rep. Freiberg and Sen. Morrison, who is running for Congress to replace retiring Dean Phillips.

Bill language details requirements for prescribing ‘medical aid in dying’ medication

The legislation in question would give an individual, who is at least 18 years old, deemed mentally capable by certified medical professionals and who has received a prognosis of less than six months to live due to a terminal illness, the right to be prescribed medication they can self-administer that would end their life. Critics of the legislation say it provides a dangerous and slippery slope for some situations where there is a misdiagnosis or an adult who is in a vulnerable mental state following a serious diagnosis.

assisted suicide
The chief authors of the assisted suicide bill in the House and Senate are Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley, and Sen. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven.

The bill language also says an individual must go through a list of several informed consent-related instructions with a medical professional. The proposed legislation would require the patient to express one oral request and two written requests to receive “medical aid in dying” medication. Most patients mix the medication with apple juice or administer it with the push of a plunger button into a feeding tube, according to medical professionals who back the proposed legislation. The proposed legislation does not require a medical professional to be present when an individual self-administers the medication.

The provisions contained in SF1813/HF1930 would differ somewhat from the 1998 Oregon law, known as the “Death with Dignity Act,” according to Freiberg and other DFL legislators who have sponsored the bill in some form or another dating back to the 2015 legislative session.

Organization has lineage to movement that supported Dr. Jack Kevorkian

Compassion & Choices Action Network has been advocating for the expansion of medical aid in dying/physician-assisted suicide laws for more than two decades.

In 2005 it merged with Oregon-based Hemlock Society following public relations fallout stemming from the 1998 criminal trial of Dr. Jack Kevorkian in Michigan.

Kevorkian became a well-known medical doctor who performed and advocated for physician-assisted suicide. He was found guilty of second-degree homicide in 1998 for the death of one of his patients who he administered a lethal injection. He closely tied his public relations profile to the Hemlock Society.


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.