State News

State Democrats introduce physician-assisted suicide bill

Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Mt. Horeb, is one of the three legislators who introduced the “Compassionate Choices” bill Wednesday that would legalize physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill who are out of options.

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Three Democratic lawmakers revealed a bill Wednesday that would legalize physician-assisted deaths for terminally ill patients, starting at 18-years-old.

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, and state Reps. Sondy Pope, D-Mt. Horeb, and Dianne Hesselbein, D-Middleton, is designed to provide terminally ill patients with the ability to end life on their own terms, also known as assisted suicide.

The bill, entitled “Compassionate Choices” stipulates that in order to medically end one’s life, a patient must be a resident of Wisconsin, 18 or older, of sound mind and have received a physician recommendation for medication.

If passed, Pope hopes the law will transfer decision-making power to the patient.

“I think it’s really important that as individuals we each have the ability to control the circumstances of our life,” Pope told The Daily Cardinal. “I would personally like to have the opportunity to choose to end my life differently, with dignity.”

Assisted suicide has faced opposition from the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, an organization focused on social and political issues from a Catholic perspective. The WCC has a history of opposition to physician-assisted death, having opposed a similar bill that did not pass in November 2016.

Kim Wadas, executive director of the WCC, said she believes the bill violates physician's duty to provide care.

“We think the goal of the medical profession is to heal and restore the individual and if that is not possible, to make sure they have a little comfort,” Wadas said. “We believe in the sanctity of life from conception until natural death. Physician-assisted suicide does not provide that opportunity. Really we just want to make sure that care is provided.”

The “Compassionate Choices” bill mirrors legislation already in place in other states, particularly Oregon’s 1997 Death with Dignity act. Additionally, Washington, Vermont, Montana and Washington D.C. have comparable “Compassionate Choices” legislation.

In the past 20 years, legislation relating to medically assisted death has been proposed to the Wisconsin legislature eight times. A 2016 Gallup poll found that 70 percent of Americans support physician-assisted suicide.

The authors of the bill are hopeful that it will pass through the Legislature this session and move on to become law.  

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