No. But, you should know:
Those who suffer from a terminal illness are brave and special people. Each illness, each individual, and each situation is unique. Some suffer greatly throughout their illness, some only at the very end of their lives, due in no small part to improvements in palliative care and hospice care. And, some fight ferociously to squeeze every last moment out of life before letting go no matter what their chances are or their quality of life remaining. They are all to be admired and their individual choices honored and dignified. The bottom line is that we all have a constitutional right to accept or decline medical treatment. Even if or when we lose our capacity to make decisions for ourselves, we have the right to choose someone who will make those decisions for us (through a Health Care Directive), thereby continuing to exercise that right over our own bodies even through an agent on our behalf.
First, the term is “physician-assisted death” (PAD). Those who disagree with it refer to it as “physician-assisted suicide,” (PAS), a term that unfortunately stuck when the issue first took its place in medico-legal circles years ago, and one that was unfortunately strengthened by the efforts of people such as Dr. Jack Kevorkian. It is clear from the bitter fight over the terminology just how deep the divide is. But, those who support the right to a dignified death prefer the terminology PAD.
Some states like Oregon and Washington have passed laws to allow terminally ill individuals who reside in those states to choose the timing of their own deaths through a partnership, so to speak, with their physician. Under a very strict set of requirements, which includes a series of well-defined steps (including repeated requests, confirmations, and a reporting process), these terminally ill patients, as long as they are able to take the prescribed medication on their own, may request medication from their physician to end their lives. Below is a link to Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act and information on the administration of the law:
As I mentioned earlier, Oregon and Washington have lead the effort with legislation, but in Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico, “Death with Dignity” is legal through state Supreme Court decisions (and many more states are in the process of major campaigns). Obviously, this is a very sensitive subject and people tend to feel strongly about it, one way or the other. But, this entry is not meant to persuade in either direction. Rather, it is meant to inform individuals seeking information on their constitutional rights and how to exercise them. Below is a link to Compassion and Choices, a national advocacy group that seeks to ensure all terminally ill individuals receive compassion in their choices at this time in their lives.
So, what about Minnesota?
Death with Dignity is not currently legal in Minnesota. Minnesota’s statute on “assisted suicide,” however, has been in the news of late with a Supreme Court case called State of Minnesota v. Melchert-Dinkel (see summary below). The story behind the case and the man the state prosecuted is hideous. No one supported the defendant’s actions, but it did bring to light the language in the statute regarding assisted suicide, which made legal, social, and medical advisors nervous when trying to educate patients. The Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision clarified that “assisting” was not the same as “advising” or “encouraging.”
Minn. Stat. 619.215 (subd. 2) (“Assisted Suicide” Statute)
State v. Melchert-Dinkel
In short, PAD is not legal in Minnesota. But, the medical profession, especially if you or your loved ones are willing to insist and advocate, will respond to requests for “no more treatment” with very advanced palliative measures and excellent hospice opportunities that can ease the suffering of the terminally ill and provide quiet dignity and comfort in your choice or your loved-one’s choice. The medical profession does have an obligation to see that you are comfortable if there is a medication that can make you so. If you or your loved one is terminally ill, make sure you understand the illness and your choices – seek advice or advocacy from anyone who can help you chose and support those choices.
This blog is written by Bridget-Michaele Reischl, Attorney DECORO LAW OFFICE, PLLC www.decorolaw.com
ALL READERS: This blog is not, nor shall it be deemed to be, legal advice or counsel. This blog does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader. It is designed to encourage thoughtful consideration of important legal issues with the expectation that readers will seek professional advice from a licensed attorney.Contact Bridget-Michaele Reischl at: DECORO LAW OFFICE, PLLC 6 West 5th Street, Suite 800-D Saint Paul, MN 55102 (651)-321-3058