Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Minnesota assisted suicide bills provide legal immunity to kill.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

The Minnesota legislature will be debating companion assisted suicide bills HF 1930 and SF 1813.

For many years I have writen about assisted suicide and the language of the assisted suicide bills. In 2021, New Mexico passed the most extreme assisted suicide bill in America. Minnesota's assisted suicide bills contains some of the measures that are found in the New Mexico law. 

"To learn more about the status of this bill and what you can do to stop assisted suicide, visit www.ethicalcaremn.org and take action."

The Minnesota assisted suicide bill is more permissive than the Oregon assisted suicide law. The bills:

  • Allows non physicians to assess, approve and prescribe lethal assisted suicide drugs. Minnesota defines a "Provider" as: a doctor of medicine or osteopathy, and an advanced practice registered nurse. 
  • Allows lesser trained mental health professionals to assess competency. "Licensed mental health provider" is defined as a psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker, psychiatric nurse practitioner, or clinical professional counselor. 
  • There is no waiting period for being approved for assisted suicide. It is possible that a person request assisted suicide and die the same day.
  • Allows the lethal drug cocktail to be delivered by mail or messenger service. 
  • Allows a healthcare facility to prohibit assisted suicide but the facility cannot prohibit information about assisted suicide or referrals for assisted suicide.
  • Does not require the person requesting death by lethal drugs to be a resident of Minnesota. Oregon withdrew their residency requirement in 2022. There is now an assisted suicide clinic and suicide tourists in Oregon. 
  • Creates a "standard of care" for assisted suicide, Medical care that complies with the requirements of this section meets the medical standard of care. Assisted suicide is not medical care.

The Minnesota bills requires that assisted suicide not be listed as the cause of death on the death certificate. The bills states:

When a death has occurred in accordance with section 145.871, the death shall be attributed to the underlying terminal disease.
Further to that, a death by assisted suicide cannot be designated as a suicide or homicide. The bills states:
Death in accordance with section 145.871 shall not be designated suicide or homicide.
This is significant because when a person dies by assisted suicide, sometimes the person was administered the lethal drug cocktail rather than it being "self administered." The bill states that it shall not be designated a homicide.

The Minnesota assisted suicide bills provides complete legal immunity for "Providers" who are willing to prescribe lethal drugs. The bills states:

  • No person or health care facility shall be subject to civil or criminal liability or professional disciplinary action, including censure, suspension, loss of license, loss of privileges, loss of membership, or any other penalty for engaging in good faith compliance.

Good faith compliance is the lowest standard.

The bills end by providing more legal protection for those who participate in assisted suicide. The bills states:

(a) Nothing in sections 145.871 to 145.878 authorizes a provider or any other person, including the qualified individual, to end the qualified individual's life by lethal injection, lethal infusion, mercy killing, homicide, murder, manslaughter, euthanasia, or any other criminal act.

(b) Actions taken in accordance with sections 145.871 to 145.878 do not, for any purposes, constitute suicide, assisted suicide, euthanasia, mercy killing, homicide, murder, manslaughter, elder abuse or neglect, or any other civil or criminal violation under the law.
Section (a) states that the bill does not authorize a person to kill by lethal injection... but it doesn't prohibit it either. Section B states that actions in accordance with... do not, for any purposes, constitute... In other words, if the lethal drug cocktail was used to kill the person, the law states that it is not euthanasia, mercy killing, homicide, murder, manslaughter, elder abuse or neglect...

The immunity that these bills provide the "Providers" who assess, approve and prescribe lethal drug cocktails, should cause concern for every legislator and lead them to reject the bill.

The wording of the bills ensures that no one who participates in assisted suicide will ever be subject to any civil or criminal liability. Let's be clear, when the family of a person who dies by assisted suicide have a strong case that something very wrong occurred, the family will not achieve justice because the law grants complete immunity.

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