January 31, 2016

Forums set on Minnesota bill to give terminally ill right to die

A state senator is holding listening sessions across the state for a bill that would allow terminally ill Minnesotans to receive medication to end their lives early if their suffering becomes unbearable.

State Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, said the proposal, which is named the “Compassionate Care Act,” contains a number of safeguards to ensure it can’t be abused, including a requirement that witnesses be present when the request is filed.

The proposal would require terminally-ill patients with less than six months to live to be assessed by two doctors and thoroughly briefed on palliative and end-of-life care before they could receive the medication to end their life.

“You have to be able to self-administer it, it’s only the person who is dying’s choice,” Eaton said. “As more of us baby boomers are taking care of our parents and looking at our own mortality, we’re saying, ‘I don’t want to die like that.'”

The bill wouldn’t require doctors or health care services to participate. But it’s already been opposed by some groups, who describe it as “assisted suicide.” Eaton rejected the term.

“I’m a mental health nurse, I don’t support assisting anyone in ending their lives if they’re depressed,” Eaton said. “These people are dying, they’re just dying sooner, before they reach the horrific consequences of the disease.”

The bill would allow Minnesota to join Oregon and a handful of other states in providing the option for people who are dying.

Eaton introduced the bill last session and is holding about a half dozen forums on the bill to give members of the public the chance to learn and ask questions about it.

The next scheduled session will take place at the new Minnesota Senate Building in St. Paul at 1 p.m. on Saturday, January 30th.

Eaton said she hopes to garner enough support in the upcoming session to pass the Senate health and human services policy committee and then to make a bigger push in 2017.