House members vote to send physician-assisted suicide bill to next committee

Bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide

Bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide

The Minnesota House’s Health Finance and Policy Committee voted Thursday to refer a bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide onto the next committee — Public Safety Finance and Policy.

Dozens of people came to the Minnesota Capitol to testify on both sides of the issue.

The bill, which would allow terminally ill adults with a prognosis of six months or less to live to authorize physicians to dispense medication to help them die, was introduced last year.

Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL-Golden Valley), the bill’s author, said during the House Health Finance and Policy Committee hearing on Thursday that he’s heard from many Minnesotans who’ve had loved ones experience “unimaginable suffering” while dealing with a terminal illness and wanted an option to end their own suffering.

“This bill will give them that option,” Freiberg said.

It’s something Freiberg says he first introduced back in 2015.

This version of the bill requires a person to be:

  • At least 18 years old,
  • Suffering from a terminal illness,
  • Have a prognosis of six months or less to live and are eligible for hospice,
  • Have the mental capacity to make their own health care decisions and give informed consent,
  • Be able to self-administer medications.

That means people suffering from dementia wouldn’t qualify, and infusions or injections are also prohibited under the bill.

Additionally, two health care providers would have to confirm the patient is of sound mind, chose this end-of-life option, and was informed of other treatment options before making that decision. The bill also includes felony-level penalties for falsifying a request, destroying a rescission of a request, or coercion, with penalties ranging from five to 25 years in prison.

Ten other states, plus the District of Columbia, already have similar laws, with Oregon being the first to legalize physician-assisted suicide nearly 30 years ago.

It’s a topic that draws a strong reaction from both sides of the issue, and more than 70 people signed up to testify at Thursday’s hearing.

Opponents call it a dangerous policy that can be taken advantage of and could open the option to those with longer-term prognoses, while supporters argue that it’s a safe and dignified way for people to end their excruciating pain if they so choose. Others, like the nonprofit Minnesota Medical Association, have updated their positions to express neutrality.

The bill still has a long way to go in the Legislature before getting close to gaining full approval.

Click here to watch Thursday’s hearing.