ST. PAUL — Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) strongly opposes legislation introduced today in the Minnesota Senate that would legalize assisted suicide in the state. A companion bill was introduced in the House last week.
"Proponents of assisted suicide claim that there are safeguards to prevent any problems," says MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. "The truth is that this legislation poses real risks to Minnesotans."
S.F. 2286/H.F. 2152, authored by Sen. Chris Eaton (DFL-Brooklyn Center) and Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL-Golden Valley), is modeled after laws adopted by a handful of other states. It would authorize doctors to prescribe lethal drugs so that patients can intentionally end their own lives.
Here are some of the bill's problems:
Once the lethal drug has been dispensed, the bill contains no safeguards at all to prevent pressure, coercion, or abuse. No one is required to witness the death.
The bill does not require a psychiatric evaluation before the patient receives the drug (the decision to refer for evaluation is left with the prescribing doctor, who is often ill-equipped to make such a judgement). In Oregon and Washington (the first two states to legalize assisted suicide), only a tiny fraction of patients seeking suicide are evaluated, and research shows that some patients receiving lethal drugs have suffered from depression.
The bill says that only patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live are eligible, but these predictions are often unreliable. In states with similar laws, some patients qualifying for assisted suicide have gone on to live for years.
Despite the rhetoric of many supporters of assisted suicide, the bill does not require that patients experience pain in order to be eligible. In places where assisted suicide is legal, concern about physical pain is a not a major reason patients give for seeking suicide.
"All people deserve support, care, and protection," says Fischbach. "Let's improve our support for patients who are sick, elderly, and disabled. Let’s make sure good palliative care is available to everyone who needs it. Let's fix our elder abuse problem. And let’s continue to say no to the dangerous practice of assisted suicide."
A similar bill received a Senate committee hearing in 2016 but was pulled from consideration because it lacked the votes necessary to pass.