Should Minnesota physicians be able to prescribe lethal medications?

A California lawsuit asks a court “to protect physicians from liability if they prescribe lethal medications to patients who are both terminally ill and mentally competent to decide their fate,” writes Anna Gorman for NPR.

The lawsuit argues that while it is against the law in California for anyone to assist in another’s suicide, these cases are not suicides. Rather, the suit argues, they are choices by a dying person on how his or her life should end and decisions about one’s own body protected under the state constitution.

Separately, two California state senators have proposed a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal medication to certain terminally ill adults.

Three states — Oregon, Washington and Vermont — already have laws allowing physician-assisted deaths. Courts in New Mexico and Montana also have ruled that aid in dying is legal, and a suit was recently filed in New York.

Today’s Question: Should Minnesota physicians be able to prescribe lethal medications?

  • Carrie

    yes

  • Cat

    Yes, as the CA lawsuit states: “to patients who are both terminally ill and mentally competent to decide their fate.”

  • RN

    YES, speaking as a person who has professionally and personally attended to countless death vigils.

  • PaulJ

    You wouldn’t treat a dog the way we treat some patients. On the other hand, we wouldn’t want to treat patients they way we treat unwanted dogs.

  • John

    Yes. In fact this is already happening when a terminally ill person is receiving morphine in a self administered or family administered form (morphine pump). This suppresses respiratory function and over time can assist in facilitating a relatively painless death – depending of course on the dosage and length of time used.

  • Sue de Nim

    My knee-jerk reaction is to say yes. However, I don’t think we should even be discussing a right to die until we acknowledge a right to medical care.

    Furthermore, two scenarios give me pause:

    1. The impatient heir, watching the estate get spent on medical care, who says, “You know you don’t have to suffer with this if you don’t want to…..”

    2. The depressed teenager who looks at that gun or that bottle of pills and asks him/herself, “If it was good for grandpa, why shouldn’t I? He did it to avoid a month of suffering; why should I have to endure sixty or seventy more years of this miserable life?”

  • Just Wondering

    I have a question, not an answer.
    If such drugs exist to prescribe, why are states like Utah reverting to barbaric means to end the lives of death row prisoners? Why don’t they just call up a California doctor?

  • Rich in Duluth

    Yes. A competent adult should have complete discretion over how much suffering he or she wants to endure. Our doctors are our hired experts in all things about the body. They should be able to advise us on end of life decisions and be able to prescribe appropriate medications, not only for healing but also to end our suffering according to our wishes.

    Sure, there are plenty of “what ifs”, but these things can be worked out with health care directives and honest discussions, in families, about our preferences concerning death and dying.

  • Ulysses Tennyson

    I don’t know what the “should” here is. Would we as a community be starting down a slope which leads to a devaluation of the lives of its individual members? Would physicians at some future time be at risk of having to choose between continuing to practice and honoring their Hippocratic oath? What do MN physicians say?

  • There is a season

    Yes, but in practice most docs won’t ever write an Rx for this. In practice it probably should be done through hospice care, an area that has vast experience in dying and in understanding the appropriate use of these extreme drugs.

    Just because there’s potential for abuse (e.g., the often cited pressure from impatient heirs or economic pressures of public health care) does not mean that we can’t handle these choices well in the main. The health care industry needs to develop standards of care and the public needs to become educated about best practice in end of life.

    Everything I hear about hospice is positive. This gives me the hope and expectation that in time we will as a society embrace death as the end of the life cycle, and not fight against it as if death itself is evil. Without death, of course, there can be no life as we know it, no renewal, no growth, no change.

    • Ulysses Tennyson

      I would make a distinction between accepting the inevitability of one’s own (apparent) death (I use the qualifier “apparent” advisedly because I do not accept “death” as “the end of the life cycle” or as likely having any ultimately reality. As Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, who knew something of the contingency of human life, conjectured in the face our ignorance of the possibilities, “one’s individual secret is not lost in the process of earthly dissolution.” ) and “embracing death” especially when one is not simply “embracing” one’s own death but that of others. I hope to greet the end of my corporeal life and its limitations when the time comes and take the next step wherever it leads. Until then and I hope after then I intend to heed the insistent voice that emerged from my heart once when I saw death opening its maw for me, “Live!” Fight. Strive. Seek. Find. Do not yield. Have courage. Act. There is a way. Things do and will make sense no matter how mad they appear.

  • Bill

    They have been for years, just look at the death toll from all these prescription medications, much worse than all the “illegal” drugs and alcohol out there. The drug companies as do the arms rown the media and the country

  • Bill

    They have been for years, just look at the death toll from all these prescription medications, much worse than all the “illegal” drugs and alcohol out there. The drug companies as the arms companies have a strong hold on our representatives (which should have been in quotes), and own our system. We need to fight this control