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And the assisted suicide discussion begins

ST. PAUL -- After watching her parents suffer prolonged, painful deaths, Pamela White wants Minnesota to allow terminally ill adults to end their own lives with prescribed drugs.

ST. PAUL - After watching her parents suffer prolonged, painful deaths, Pamela White wants Minnesota to allow terminally ill adults to end their own lives with prescribed drugs.

“Both of my parents suffered needlessly at the end of their lives,” even though they had written health care directives stating they wanted to “die at home on their own terms,” the Burnsville woman said Monday at a Capitol news conference, where she endorsed a bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicides in the state.
Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, a registered nurse, said she proposed the legislation to “begin a conversation” on whether to allow dying patients to request and receive medications to control the time and manner of their deaths.
Eaton detailed her bill with White and members of the Minnesota chapter of Compassion and Choices, a nonprofit looking to expand end-of-life options.
It was presented later Monday at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Human Services and Housing. However, Eaton said she wanted to postpone any action on the bill until after she conducts informational hearings on the measure around the state between legislative sessions.
Physician-assisted suicides are allowed in Oregon, Washington, Montana, New Mexico and Vermont. Eaton said at least 17 other states are considering similar legislation this year.
She said she believes this is the first time such a measure, titled the Minnesota Compassionate Care Act, has been proposed in this state. It is modeled after Oregon’s 1997 Death with Dignity Act.
Under Eaton’s bill, terminally ill Minnesota adults could request aid in dying. They would have to be mentally competent to make sound decisions and able to take the medication themselves. Two physicians would have to confirm that the patient met those criteria, and doctors could opt out if they wish.
The Minnesota Medical Association currently opposes assisted suicide.
“Physicians must not perform euthanasia or participate in assisted suicide,” the association’s policy states. “The societal risks of involving physicians in medical interventions to cause patients’ deaths is too great to condone euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.”
But Minnesota doctors might want to reconsider that policy, said association spokesman Dan Hauser. While no action is imminent, he said. “It’s on our radar.”
Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion organization, opposes the bill.
“Our law against assisted suicide has protected vulnerable people for many years,” Andrea Rau, a lobbyist for the organization, said in a statement.
“Minnesotans recognize that persons seeking help to kill themselves need immediate care, including medical and mental health care, not assisted suicide.”

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