NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: It is not acceptable to make suicide more acceptable

A new “death with dignity” bill was proposed in the Indiana Legislature last week, similar to one introduced last year that died in committee.

This one must die as well.

Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) authored both bills. The latest, HB 1157, would enable people with terminal illnesses to request medication that would end their lives.

California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C., currently have laws allowing a similar process for people with terminal illnesses.

Current Indiana law, however, says it is a Level 5 felony to provide the physical means by which another person attempts or commits suicide or participates in a physical act by which another person attempts or commits suicide. Under the new bill, anyone seeking end-of-life medication must file a written request with two “disinterested” witnesses who are not family members attesting to the fact that the person is not being coerced to make that decision. The physician would be required to offer alternatives to the patient, such as pain management or hospice care, and has the option to refer the patient to counseling. A second physician must also be consulted.

The patient must go through a 15-day waiting period before filling out another written request. If approved, the medication must be self-administered.

“Sending a message to Hoosiers that suicide is a good alternative to life, even the end of life, carries with it some dangerous ramifications and consequences that can hurt those Hoosier families left behind,” says Indiana American Family Association Executive Director Micah Clark. “Doctors exist to prolong life, not to end it.”

Suicide, in general, is a widespread and growing problem in our society. We think legislation like this could make even more acceptable the view that suicide is a cure for difficult, often temporary, problems. And it will further blur the lines of what it means to respect the dignity of every single person.

We hark back to an Oct. 11, 2016, letter to the editor in The News-Sentinel from Andrew Mullally, M.D., a Fort Wayne doctor who is active in the Indiana Alliance Against Assisted Suicide. He wrote to voice his approval of the fact that the Indiana State Medical Association rejected physician-assisted suicide and positively reaffirmed its long-standing opposition to the practice of doctors helping to kill their patients.

“Physician-assisted suicide has no place in society and cannot become a role of the physician,” Mullally wrote. “The cure for suffering is not to eliminate the sufferer. … Any expansion of physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia would further marginalize the vulnerable patients in our society, especially the poor and those with disabilities.”

We agree. Indiana needs to maintain its commitment to life, and this bill needs to meet certain death.

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