Lawmakers Plan to Reintroduce "Death with Dignity Act"

Two state lawmakers plan to bring the issue of assisted suicide back to the floor, saying recent high profile cases prove people want more control over their life in death.

State Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison) says, "This is not a case of whether or not you're going to die, you are going to die. The question is how are you going to die? And this bill gives the person who's dying one more option."

In the wake of the Terri Schiavo saga, Senator Risser says people are worried they don't have enough control over their lives when dying.

When most Americans think of assisted suicide, they think of Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

But Risser says his bill safeguards against those practices.

"We don't want Kevorkians coming around and telling people what to do, we want people to make their own decision."

Under the soon-to-be-proposed "Death with Dignity Act" not just anyone would have the right to make that decision.

You must be 18 years old and deemed both mentally competent and terminally ill by 2 doctors. Then after an oral request and a written request signed by 3 witnesses, a physician can prescribe the requested medication.

UW professor of law and bioethics, Alta Charo, poses the question, "Since terminally ill patients are already entitled to have the ventilator turned off so they can suffocate to death, wouldn't it be more merciful to let them choose another method in which death comes more as a friend not as an enemy?"

This isn't the first time assisted suicide has been discussed in the statehouse.

A similar bill has been introduced for more than a decade, always unsuccessfully.

But Risser says he's not giving up.

"Oftentimes you introduce a bill to get the idea before the public, to have a hearing, have discussion on it and see how the public attitude is," he says, "I personally think there's more support for this bill than two years ago."

The bill is circulating around the legislature looking for coauthors.

Risser says he and Representative Frank Boyle (D-Superior) plan to introduce it next month.

But Senator Carol Roessler (R-Oshkosh), who chairs the bill's future committee (Committee on Heath, Children, Families, Aging and Long Term Care), says she does not intend to hold a hearing on the issue.

Therefore it doesn't look as if it will make it out of committee.


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