To the editor:
It’s been one year since the U.S. declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency. As we continue to recover from the emotional and economic devastation, I hope that some of what we have learned will shape policy going forward.
As I approach my 90th birthday this summer, I am acutely aware of the fragility of life and the eventuality of death. COVID-19, however, has raised public awareness about death with glimpses of the suffering and isolation that can occur in the last weeks and months of life and made the desire to control and reduce suffering at the end of life more understandable.
I’ve been a strong advocate of the Minnesota End-of-Life Options Act for years. The legislation, modeled after Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, would authorize medical aid in dying so that a terminally ill adult of sound mind can request and receive from their provider a prescription medication they could ingest for peaceful death if their suffering becomes intolerable. Twenty-two percent of Americans live in one of the nine states (and Washington D.C.) where medical aid in dying is legal. If you’ve watched a loved one die slowly from cancer or another debilitating disease, you probably agree that access to a peaceful death shouldn’t depend on where you live.
Most Minnesotans agree that medical aid in dying should be an option and would provide comfort to those at the end of life just knowing it is there if they need it.
As Minnesota lawmakers begin to work on priorities for 2021, I hope they remember that terminally ill Minnesotans can’t wait. They are suffering and dying every day and would benefit from having the freedom to make end-of-life decisions according to their own values and priorities.