Momentum builds for End-of-Life Options Act in Minnesota

It is a difficult subject to talk about -- end-of-life care and giving terminally ill patients medical aid in dying.

Some DFL lawmakers are pushing legislation at the Capitol to make Minnesota a state where, under specific circumstances, a person suffering from disease could end their own life with medical assistance.

It certainly is not scientific, but supporters of the End-of-Life Options Act are pointing to a Minnesota House of Representatives poll conducted annually at the State Fair that recently found 73% of respondents said, yes, a terminally ill adult should have the option to end their life with the assistance of health care providers.

"The practice is patient-driven," explained Sen. Kelly Morrison/(DFL-Deephaven). "Only the patient can decide if and whether to participate. And no one, including healthcare providers, is required to participate. Medical aid in dying is one more option for terminally ill adults to have available should their suffering become intolerable."

Sen. Morrison is a physician herself. She is the Senate’s chief author of the bill.

The legislation would give a terminally ill adult with decision-making capacity, and less than six months to live, access to prescription medication they may self-ingest to end their life.

One advocate pushing hard for the legislation is Ellen Kennedy, who is a Ph.D. and Executive Director of a World Without Genocide at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. Kennedy watched her husband, long-time University of Saint Thomas faculty member Leigh Lawton, suffer horrifically from an incurable blood cancer. 

"He lived in torment at the end," Kennedy told FOX 9’s Paul Blume following a panel discussion of the legislation in front of invited guests at a Minnetonka hotel Wednesday. "One of his last wishes for me was that I would advocate for this legislation so that other people could have the choice that he did not have. And that was his dying request."

Kennedy added, "He wanted to be able to die with dignity on his own terms. He wanted the choice that people in 10 states and Washington, D.C., have. He did not have that choice."

Sen. Morrison is hoping to get the bill to the floor next year after introducing the legislation during the last session. But there is opposition, including the conservative group, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. They provided the following statement:

"The proposal to legalize assisted suicide in Minnesota has gone nowhere in past years, and for good reasons. Assisted suicide is a danger to all of us. The bill lacks adequate protection against coercion and abuse and fails to ensure patients suffering from depression get the care they need. Lawmakers in St. Paul should work to protect all Minnesotans rather than push dangerous and misguided legislation."