Republican legislators are speaking out against a renewed push to bring assisted suicide to Minnesota, calling the proposal a “literal poison pill.”
DFL legislators indicated last week that they will use the 2024 session — the last guaranteed year of their trifecta — to pass an “End of Life Options Act,” which would authorize doctors to prescribe lethal medication to mentally-capable adults with a terminal illness (six months or less to live).
The policy item apparently got lost in the shuffle during the 2023 session and didn’t receive a hearing in either the House or Senate.
Bill sponsor Sen. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven, plans to make that right, she said last week during a panel discussion on the issue.
Sens. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, and Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, Republican health and human services leads, are already pushing back.
“The so-called ‘end of life option’ bill is a literal poison pill. Combined with a push for single payer healthcare from Democrats, Minnesotans should research the dangerous changes made in Canada and being pushed in Washington state that are the start of a very slippery slope,” they said in a joint statement.
They pointed to Canada’s “medical aid in dying law.” In 2021, Minnesota’s neighbor to the north removed a requirement for “natural death to be reasonably foreseeable” for assisted-suicide patients in response to a 2019 court ruling.
“A steady stream of stories began to appear in the media, describing how the state was granting access to assisted suicide to people who arguably didn’t fit the original criteria,” David Brooks writes in a June 2023 article in The Atlantic examining how the “program has worked out rather differently” than originally intended.
The article points to several examples, including a 23-year-old man with vision loss in one eye and diabetes who was “depressed and unemployed.” He was approved for a physician-assisted suicide, but doctors ultimately didn’t go through with it after facing pressure from the man’s mother, according to the article.
One in 30 Canadian deaths (over 10,000) in 2021 were the result of physician-assisted suicide. That same year, just 4 percent of applicants were turned away, the article says.
In Washington state, where the requirements are more strict, some advocates have called for dropping the “six-month requirement” but keeping the requirements that “a patient have a grievous and irremediable medical condition, an advanced state of decline and unbearable suffering from the illness.” Legislators there passed a bill this spring that will expedite the process for those who request physician-assisted suicide.
“Caring for sick and dying loved ones is not always easy,” Abeler and Utke commented. “We should focus on the value of every life, no matter the disability, condition, or illness and support those who are terminally ill and suffering from untreatable disease, rather than supporting a culture of death.”