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'Right to die' bill draws hundreds to Senate committee meeting

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A reinvigorated push for an assisted suicide bill in Minnesota drew hundreds of opponents and supporters to a Senate hearing room on Wednesday afternoon.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, was introduced the Minnesota Compassionate Care Act last year and would grant terminally ill Minnesotans the ability to request medication allowing them to die peacefully and on their own terms.

“It’s an alternative when [patients ’] agony becomes unbearable,” Eaton told the Senate Committee on Health, Human Services and Housing, according to the Star Tribune.

The Minnesota Compassionate Care Act is modeled after Oregon's 1997 Death with Dignity Act, which was the first state to pass an assisted suicide bill 20 years ago.

"We have options in Minnesota," Eaton said in a news conference Wednesday morning. "You can shut off life support. You can stop taking nutrition or fluids. You can stop treatment. But all those do not preclude the end of the process when your body is breaking down from disease. This is another tool that we can use to show humanity to ourselves as we are in the last days of life. We are all going to die some day, and I think the discussion needs to continue."

Although Eaton said that she doesn't expect her bill to be considered by the Republican-controlled House, it is important to continue the conversation, The Associated Press reports.

Supporters, like Sally Settle, believe legislation like Eaton's proposal brings peace to those suffering from disease, like her mother who was diagnosed with leukemia.

"This is critically important legislation, and we need to pass it as soon as possible," Settle said, according to a Senate Media Services video. "I miss you mom. She begged me before she died to get involved so that no one would have to go through what she went through."

Opponents say the assisted-suicide measure could increase suicide rates and take advantage of the disabled and elderly, according to the Pioneer Press.

The Minnesota Catholic Conference called for opponents to the measure to wear red in protest.

What is the Compassionate Care Act?

The Compassionate Care Act allows terminally ill Minnesota adults (defined in the bill as those over 18) to receive lethal drugs from their doctors, but are only eligible after being diagnosed with six months or less to live.

Other guidelines include patients being able to take medication themselves and being mentally competent to understand the results of the decisions.

Two physicians must confirm that the patient meets the criteria for assisted suicide, which can only come after the patient submits two written requests, each with two witnesses.

Death with Dignity in other states

California, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have a Death with Dignity statute, according to the Death with Dignity organization. In Montana, the practice is legal with a court decision.

Other states have considered but not passed assisted suicide legislation, according to the Pioneer Press, including: Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

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