Eden Prairie assisted suicide case shines light on controversy

A recent case of assisted suicide, involving an Eden Prairie man, is shining a new light on the controversy in Minnesota.

Thomas Houck, 61, was charged this week after allegedly helping his wife end her life at their Eden Prairie home. According to the court documents, his wife had ongoing and chronic pain. Houck could spend up to fifteen years in prison. 

Like every big issue, there are activists on both sides.

“It’s a very sad situation,” said Bill Poehler of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. “Unfortunately the resources that we have, the medical care, the mental health care did not reach these people and that’s something that needs to be addressed.”

“This poor guy is threatened with spending the rest of his life in jail because he did what he needed, what his loving wife needed him to do for her – that’s wrong,” said Robert Rivas of the Final Exit Network.

The group Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life says assisted suicide has to remain illegal. Poehler says terminally ill patients could be misdiagnosed and where legal, assisted suicide could become the treatment of choice due to cost. He says it also encourages abuse by caregivers. 

“People can be made to be feel like they’re a burden, a financial burden on a family,” said Poehler. “So if someone stands to inherit money from that person might say, ‘Wouldn’t it be best for you to just end your life or your suffering?’”

Final Exit Network was convicted of assisted suicide after an Apple Valley woman ended her own life in 2007. Final Exit says it does not provide equipment or encourage suicide, but does provide education on how to do it and support. Just this month, Final Exit filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the state’s assisted suicide law saying it is unconstitutional.

“The State of Minnesota is the only state in the country that now believes it’s okay to prosecute and convict somebody strictly for giving information … for giving the same information that the person could have found for themselves on the internet,” said Rivas.

While Minnesota has a law against assisted suicide, there have been challenges. Most recently in 2015, the Compassionate Care Act came before state legislators, but did not get far enough for a vote. As for the lawsuit against the state's assisted suicide law, no date has been set yet for the judge to hear the case.