FARGO — It’s a nightmare for many families. A loved one has a terminal illness, and that person’s pain and suffering worsens with each passing day. Friends and relatives are also miserable as they observe the slow and anguishing process.
There needs to be a better way, and there is. A bill in front of the Minnesota Legislature, called the End-of-Life-Option Act, would give dying patients a real choice. A patient who has less than six months to live, has been examined by at least two physicians, and is determined to have a sound mind, could choose to take a pill to end his or her life at that time. Eight states and Washington, D.C., have similar laws that have worked well.
Marianne Turnbull, 61, of St. Paul, suffers from stage 4 ovarian cancer. Her condition is terminal.
“I want the option to have that pill on my desk,” Turnbull said. “I don’t think anyone can tell me when I’ve suffered enough or not suffered enough.”
Turnbull says her family and friends fully support her efforts to legalize this.
“It’s painless and it is not distressing for family members to watch. It’s very peaceful,” Turnbull said. “I’m already playing God. I choose whether I want treatment or not. I could have declined treatment, and I would be gone by now.”
Jan Karon, 79, of Duluth, has had two tough battles with breast cancer. She is a member of Compassion and Choices, and strongly supports the legislation.
“There’s a time for some of us, that there’s no point of life anymore,” Karon said. “I believe quality of life is more important than length of life. I want the choice of death with dignity.”
Karon says she doesn’t want to go through anymore debilitating and painful cancer treatments.
“If a cat has leukemia, we put her down because we don’t want to watch her suffer and die,” Karon said. “So, why do we make our families and friends suffer so much?”
Rep. Mike Freiberg, D-Golden Valley, is the chief sponsor of the bill.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people who have lost loved ones from painful diseases, who said they wished they had an option like this,” Freiberg said. “The government shouldn’t be denying them a medical procedure that gives them comfort.”
Dr. David Plimpton, a retired physician from Minneapolis, treated dozens of terminally ill patients who were tormented before they died. Many of them begged him to help end their lives, which he couldn’t legally do.
“I believe in autonomy at the end of life,” Plimpton said. “When the end is obvious and near, we should listen to patients. We’re trying to ease the process of dying for the suffering patients and survivors.”
What’s the point of forcing a miserable terminally ill person to stay alive for a few extra weeks or months? It’s time to give those people a choice. It’s time to end the needless suffering.