EXPLAINER: Death with Dignity law proposed in Minnesota

State senators in Minnesota are discussing the sensitive and emotional issue of allowing terminally-ill patients to take their own lives. The state of Oregon currently allows dying patients to take their own lives, and a state senator wants Minnesotans to have the same option.

The Compassionate Care Act would allow people with a terminal diagnosis to receive aid in dying by taking a prescribed drug that they ingest themselves. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Chris Eaton (DFL-Brooklyn Center). She insists that this is not an assisted suicide bill, and that the terminally ill patient would have to submit two written requests to a doctor that is signed and witnessed by two people.

“This is not euthanasia,” Eaton said. “The legislation does not allow lethal injection, and it requires that the person wishing to use this option self-administer the medication.” 

Testifying in support of the bill Wednesday was Dan Diaz. His wife, Brittany Maynard, suffered from a terminal brain tumor and moved to Oregon to take advantage of their law to end her life when her suffering got too great.

“We’re talking about end of life. We’re talking about death. It’s a topic that none of us really want to talk about, but I think Brittany’s story has made it that we can talk about it,” Diaz said. “We should talk about it and just recognize that this legislation allows an individual to have a gentle passing. That’s what it’s about.”

The numbers from Oregon show 132 terminally ill patients last year ended their lives under the Death With Dignity bill – 89 percent of them were already in hospice care.

"This law does not result in more people dying, it results in more people not suffering," Diaz said.