The Heart of the Matter

Proponents and opponents of Medical Aid in Dying have staked out their territory. These are caring, hardworking, and responsible citizens who have explored the factual, experiential, and emotional aspects of the proposed legislation.

The proposed Minnesota End-of-Life Option Act, HF 1930 and SF 1813, legalizes terminally ill, mentally capable adults with a prognosis of six or fewer months to live, the option to request, obtain, and self-ingest medication to die peacefully during sleep if their suffering becomes unbearable. The Act carries with it strict written protocols and safeguards, patterned after a similar bill in Oregon where not a single case of abuse has been documented for twenty-five years. No one involved in the process is required or coerced to participate. These protocols are the heart of the matter.

The 2023 Minnesota State Fair Poll shows 73.2% of State Fair Goers— a total of 5,844 in-person responses that cross all party lines, all geographies, all circumstances for people with disabilities, and all religions— desire this proposed legislation. And, what about those who answered “no” or were “undecided”? If this option was not for them, might they have considered listening to an expanded heart and offering this end-of-life care to someone who is just like them—another loved one, co-worker, friend, neighbor, or total stranger? This is the heart of the matter.

With great interest, I followed the interim hearing of the House, Health, Finance and Policy Committee, held on January 25, 2024. Poignant, respectful, and passionate testimony expressed both sides of the issue. During floor discussions, the opposition didn’t want to rush into anything—citing the potential for incorrect diagnoses or miracle recoveries, the possibilities of future medical breakthroughs, and focused guarantees. These circumstances involve pure speculation. Speculation does not serve real time, intensely painful suffering that is happening for terminally ill patients right now.  Most hospices recognize that the pain level of twenty-five percent of terminally ill patients cannot be relieved by any available medication. These Minnesotans can’t wait. We need balanced, heart-championed options.

Have we honestly considered another’s circumstances? What might it be like to live as a person who is terminally ill with unimaginable pain—hour after hour—knowing that Voluntarily Stop Eating and Drinking (VSED) was the only recourse? Our fears may prevent us from a candid assessment. Can we meet our fears of what others might think, of heart wisdom equating to weakness, or of making the wrong decision? Can we be courageous and think beyond ourselves? These questions are the heart of the matter.

Let us step back from these influences to feel and think as a united Minnesota House and Senate, making autonomy in death for terminally ill individuals an unquestionable, positive right. Imagine the joy and tenderness patients would feel while surrounded by loving family and friends, peacefully connecting with their inmost heart, contented with the consciously dying process, and releasing their excruciating suffering on their own terms. Offer a choice. If not for you, for someone else. Pass the Minnesota End-of-Life Option Act. Heart matters.