Diverse Coalition Launches to Oppose Assisted Suicide, Advance Real Care

Posted On: Thursday, November 17th, 2016

Minnesota prides itself on world-class healthcare. A new coalition has formed to ensure that lawmakers and care providers continue to build on that proud legacy.

With 35 diverse partner organizations, the MN Alliance for Ethical Healthcare launched today with a strong commitment to expanding authentic healthcare options for all Minnesotans.

Central to that goal is opposing harmful assisted suicide legislation, like the kind that was recently legalized in Washington, D.C. and Colorado. Proponents of assisted suicide attempted to pass similar legislation during Minnesota’s 2016 legislative session.

“This dangerous, unjust practice undermines the patient-caregiver relationship, exposes the vulnerable to harm, and deflects efforts to improve the quality and accessibility of quality healthcare at the end of life,” said Dr. Steve Bergeson, a family physician practicing in Shoreview, MN. “We can’t advance real care if we’re hastening death.”

Dr. Bergeson is one of 67 Minnesota medical professionals who have expressed their public opposition to assisted suicide by joining the Alliance as individual members. They join several medical organizations, such as the American Academy of Medical Ethics, the Pro-Life Healthcare Alliance, and the Center for Bioethics and Culture, that have signed on as Alliance partners.

“Assisted suicide is presented as a choice to avoid pain, but it’s all too often pursued for non-medical reasons,” added Dr. Bergeson, noting that recent advances in palliative care allow medical professionals to effectively manage discomfort at the end of life. “We need to make Minnesota a state where no one feels like they need to take their own life because they can’t afford quality treatment, are experiencing loneliness, or are worried about being a “burden” on their family.”

Advocates for persons with disabilities are also key Alliance partners, including groups like the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Patients Rights Action Fund, and the American Association of People with Disabilities. They’re concerned that legal assisted suicide perpetuates dangerous ideas that people with significant needs have diminished dignity, and therefore don’t deserve quality care.

“Legalizing assisted suicide would be a serious blow to people with disabilities and all who are already impacted by disparities in healthcare,” said Neil Helgeson, the president of The Arc Minnesota. “We need to be closing gaps in healthcare, not widening them.”

Also opposing assisted suicide as Alliance partners are several faith-based organizations, including the Islamic Center of Minnesota, the Catholic Health Association, and both Minnesota districts of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. These groups stress that authentic compassion must be rooted in love and companionship, which are undermined by assisted suicide.

“Assisted suicide deprives those near the end of life of the medical and personal attention they need and deserve” said Virginia Flo, state director of Lutherans for Life. “It is not real compassion, and is inconsistent with the values the people of our state hold dear. Minnesotans deserve better.”

The MN Alliance for Ethical Healthcare aims to oppose assisted suicide and advance real care through advocacy and education. The Alliance has already made its mark by organizing a petition urging the Minnesota Medical Association to maintain its long-standing opposition to assisted suicide. The petition, which was signed by over 500 Minnesota medical professionals, instead urged the MMA to support advances in palliative care and efforts to make quality healthcare more affordable and accessible.