Rep. Matt Pierce to seek “Death with Dignity” law in Indiana
INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) announced today that he has filed legislation that would provide Indiana with a “death with dignity” law enabling individuals with terminal illnesses to request medication that would give them the option of ending their lives in a peaceful, humane manner.
House Bill 1157 would allow an adult diagnosed with a terminal disease that will end the person’s life within six months to voluntarily request and receive a prescription medication that can be used, if necessary, to die in a peaceful, humane manner. The measure is based upon a law passed in Oregon in 1998. Four other states—California, Colorado, Vermont, and Washington—and the District of Columbia have passed similar laws.
“I am hopeful the introduction of this bill will begin a discussion among Hoosiers about this difficult end-of-life issue,” Pierce said at a Statehouse press conference. “The medication can only be requested and self-administered by the person facing imminent death. Careful monitoring in the states that have passed these laws shows they have been used responsibly. My legislation contains the same safeguards to ensure the decision of a terminally ill person to humanely end his or her own life is not a result of suffering from depression or any kind of coercion.”
Joining Pierce at the press conference were advocates for the legislation, including Bev Hmurovic, president of Compassion and Choices of Indiana, and Corey Polen from Brownsburg, who suffers from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
“Terminally ill patients yearn to live as long and fully as they can, for as long as the disease allows them a reasonable quality of life,” Hmurovic said. “What they don’t want is a prolonged and painful dying process. This is why Compassion and Choices of Indiana wants to see this legislation adopted. We want to save people from unnecessary suffering and allow them a more peaceful dying process.”
Polen added, “Our state allows for pet owners to compassionately end the suffering of pets. Our state puts death row convicts to death compassionately. However, when it comes to someone like me, the state comes up way too short. Regardless of one’s personal decision on Aid with Dying, the liberty to choose for those affected will bring great comfort and solace during an agonizing time. Just knowing that this option is available takes an immeasurable weight off the shoulders of patients like me. To know I could have some control in the amount of torture I and my family endure would be priceless.”
In order to receive the medication, Pierce said his legislation would require a patient to request the medication on a written form signed by two disinterested witnesses who attest the patient is competent and acting voluntarily. The request is followed by a 15-day waiting period and second written request for the prescription. A second doctor is required to confirm the diagnosis and that the patient is making a voluntary decision before a physician can prescribe the medication. Patients would be informed of other available options such as pain management and hospice care. They would be referred for counseling if depression or another disorder is impairing their judgment.
“There are waiting periods built into the system from the initial request for a physician’s help before the actual prescription is filled,” Pierce noted. “The patient does not have to take the drug once the prescription is filled, and many choose not to. People have said that just having the medication to ensure their lives end humanely brings great comfort, even if the medication is never used.”