Assisted suicide bill receives Minnesota House committee hearing

MCCL urges Legislature to reject dangerous measure

By Paul Stark

ST. PAUL — Today a House committee will hold an informational hearing on a bill to legalize assisted suicide in Minnesota. The legislation, which would authorize doctors to prescribe lethal drugs so that patients can intentionally end their lives, is strongly opposed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL).

“Assisted suicide is a danger to all of us,” says MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. “Contrary to the assertions of activists trying to generate public support for this bill, legalizing assisted suicide would pose real risks to Minnesotans.”

H.F. 2152, authored by Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL-Golden Valley), will be heard by the Health and Human Services Policy Committee. The hearing is informational; no vote will be taken. Similar legislation has been proposed in recent years but has never advanced out of a legislative committee.

Among the dangers of the bill are the following:

  • Once the lethal drug has been dispensed, no safeguards exist to prevent pressure, coercion, or abuse. No one is required to witness the death.
  • Public and private insurers have a financial incentive to steer patients toward suicide rather than expensive life-extending treatment. Some patients in states with assisted suicide have been denied treatment and offered assisted suicide instead.
  • 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). 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 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. One study found that, each year in the U.S., about 12 millions adults who seek outpatient medical care are misdiagnosed.

“People who are at risk of suicide deserve our protection,” says Fischbach. “Those facing an adverse prognosis or the challenges of disability deserve our protection no less than physically healthy and able-bodied people. We all matter.”

Fischbach concludes: “Minnesota is better than assisted suicide. This harmful legislation must be vigorously rejected.”