By Chris Haring

Despite support from pro-assisted dying Indianans for their version of an aid-in-dying bill, the state’s Senators rebuked their constituents with their votes.

One of the fundamental tenets of the systems of government employed throughout the United States at all levels is representation: the idea that constituents entrust their elected officials to reflect their views and wishes accurately and in good faith at whatever level they serve.

For that reason, Death with Dignity has been distressed to find that in far too many cases, some legislators continuously fail to perform their most basic job function when considering not only the implementation – but the mere idea – of medical aid in dying. 

As The (Indiana) Journal Gazette editorial board wrote, a recent (and egregious) example of some officials seemingly thumbing their nose at the will of the majority was when the state Senate passed a resolution condemning the practice of “assisted suicide,” absent any significant input from Hoosiers. 

Assisted-dying opponents intentionally conflate it with suicide and euthanasia

The board notes that the resolution, as authored by Sen. Tyler Johnson (R – District 14), inaccurately frames physician-assisted death as “a direct threat to human dignity, patient rights, and the disabled.” However, despite the continued unfair characterization from several powerful special interest groups, the broader context of public sentiment suggests otherwise.

Medical aid in dying – the regulated, compassionate option for individuals facing terminal illnesses – is often intentionally conflated with “assisted suicide” by opponents, which perpetuates stigmatization. Despite this, however, the right to die enjoys broad public support across various demographics.

Legislators should represent their constituents, not anti-aid-in-dying organizations

Unfortunately, as the editorial highlights, the disparity between public support and legislative action regarding end-of-life options in Indiana is glaring. Despite medical aid in dying’s broad popularity, proposals such as HB 1011 from State Rep. Matt Pierce (D-61st District) have consistently failed to receive the attention they deserve.

Fortunately, as the opposition’s anti-assisted-dying decree moves to the House, it is essential to recognize that resolutions, unlike bills, do not carry the force of law. Although they functionally serve as expressions of legislative sentiment, we also know that symbolic gestures can hold significant weight. 

Ultimately, the notion that Johnson’s bill has received considerably more traction than Pierce’s belies the fact that it is more important than ever for the aid-in-dying movement in Indiana to rally behind compassionate end-of-life options.

For more information on the status of Death with Dignity in Indiana, please visit the state page on our website.

[Disclaimer: As the following piece notes, the term “assisted suicide” (often deployed concurrently with “euthanasia”) is incorrectly used as a synonym for “medical aid in dying” and “physician-assisted dying/death.” Notably, in jurisdictions with codified Death with Dignity laws, each specifies that medical aid in dying is, in fact, not suicide, nor a means to assist in suicide, so to conflate the two is technically and legally inaccurate.]

Read the full article below:

Resolution castigates medical aid in dying without input from Hoosiers

By: The Journal Gazette Editorial Board
Published: March 8, 2024

American support for medical assistance in dying is broad-based, bipartisan and includes majorities in key voter groups, according to recent polls. Despite such apparent support for an end-of-life option and an existing statute banning that choice in the state, the Indiana Senate voted to oppose allowing Hoosiers with terminal illnesses to stop their own suffering.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 17, authored by Leo-Cedarville Republican Tyler Johnson, an emergency-room physician, passed the full Senate on a 39-9 vote last week. It states “assisted suicide is a direct threat to human dignity, patient rights, and the disabled when the medical goal must be to eliminate suffering rather than the person who suffers.”

Conflation of medical aid in dying with suicide perpetuates false, harmful and stigmatizing information, said Angela Schultz, the southwest regional advocacy manager for Compassion & Choices, a Colorado-based nonprofit that supports “death with dignity” laws.

There is no substantiated correlation between medical aid in dying and suicide,” she told The Journal Gazette. “When medical aid in dying is authorized, it increases the likelihood that a terminally ill person will express their desire to end their life to a medical provider who has the training to evaluate them and connect them to appropriate care and support.”

Medical assistance in dying is legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia. Bloomington Democrat Matt Pierce hoped Indiana would become the 11th, but his House Bill 1011 didn’t receive a hearing this session, or last year, or the year before that.

“(Lawmakers) wasted all that time on Senate Concurrent Resolution 17, but they won’t even give a hearing, let alone a vote, to my bill because, I think, they don’t want to have a discussion,” Pierce told The Journal Gazette.

HB 1011 would’ve allowed terminally ill Hoosiers to request medication from a doctor that the individual would self-administer to bring about their death. Under existing death-with-dignity statutes, qualifying people must be a resident of the state where such a law is in effect; capable of making and communicating their own health-care decisions; diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months; and capable of self-administering medications without assistance.

It also would’ve established a Level 1 felony, punishable by a 20- to 40-year prison sentence, for those who alter, forge, conceal or destroy a request for medication to cause an individual’s death, or coerce an individual to request medication to bring about death.

“I think that what happened here is they felt they were losing the public-relations battle, so for some reason they felt that passing this resolution would somehow allow them to retake the high ground,” Pierce said.

Indeed, the Pew Research Center publishes a report on U.S. moral values each May. Last year’s survey found 53% of respondents consider “doctor-assisted suicide” to be morally acceptable. The annual result hasn’t dropped below 51% since 2013.

In November 2021, Susquehanna Polling and Research polled 951 likely voters on whether they believe a mentally sound adult with six months or less to live should have the legal option to obtain medication to bring about death. Sixty-eight percent said yes.

A breakdown of key demographic groups found support for medical aid in dying among 70% of Democrats; 68% of Republicans; 61% of Midwesterners; 66% of Catholics and Protestants; 69% of 55- to 64-year-olds; and 67% of those 65 or older.

SCR 17 was referred to the House Tuesday. If adopted, it won’t require Gov. Eric Holcomb’s signature. Resolutions, unlike bills, don’t become laws. They only express the sentiment of both legislative chambers.

Senators passed SCR 17 without first learning the opinions of Hoosiers on medical aid in dying. In doing so, they’ve effectively said our sentiments on the issue don’t matter, and they won’t soon consider an end-of-life option for the terminally ill.

HB 1011 should have had a hearing, if only to generate honest debate on the issue and learn what choices Hoosiers want for themselves, their friends and loved ones at the end of their lives.