2017 | Week of April 24 | #1200
It was October 1997. I think it was my first week on the job with Wisconsin Family Council. It was certainly my first assignment having to do with legislation. The mission? Attend a public hearing and take notes. I remember walking up to the capitol and finally finding the North Hearing Room. I sat on the right side of the room facing the front, on an aisle seat towards the back. I had a legal pad and pen ready to go.
The bill being discussed that day was, I readily admit, an absolutely foreign topic to me: legalizing doctor-prescribed suicide. Yes, 20 years ago in our state legislature we were dealing with a bill that would, if passed, permit a doctor to write a prescription for a drug designed to kill rather than heal or help in any way.
I recall sitting there in disbelief as I listened to the testimonies. I was horrified as I heard emotional story after emotional story from the legislative authors to members of the public about how their loved ones had what doctors had told them was a terminal illness and rather than experience pain, they should have been allowed to legally kill themselves—with a doctor’s help.
I thought of my own mother who had Alzheimers and within the next 4 years would die as a result of it. I knew she would never ask a doctor to help her kill herself, even when she had struggled mightily with depression in the early days of this despicable disease. As you can tell, it was an unforgettable day—etched deeply in my memory. Little did I know how this issue would take on life rather than appropriately die.
The bill died in committee that session as it has so far each of the other 15 times it’s been introduced in Wisconsin. But the issue has never died, and every year sees it gaining some momentum across the country.
Earlier this month a small group of Wisconsin Democrats introduced this session’s version of the bill, which is quite a bit different from what we’ve had in previous sessions. Interestingly, there is no Senate version of the bill, just Assembly Bill 216 with actually very few co-sponsors. Even though there are some difference from previous versions, the main idea is to protect doctors who prescribe a lethal dose of a medicine for a patient they deem terminal. Nowhere in this current bill is there anything that specifically says the patient must self-administer the killing medicine, which means it could be administered by someone else, which is absolutely frightening.
Assisted suicide is wrong. Legalizing it is a terrible idea, but those pushing this life-taking proposal across the country are absolutely committed to getting it done one state at a time. Right now, assisted suicide is legal in only 5 states and the District of Columbia: Washington State, Oregon, California, Colorado, and Vermont. It’s allowed by a court decision in Montana. But the way the news carries on about this issue, you’d think bills were passing all the time in the majority of states. That’s just not the case.
Since 1994 when Oregon became the first state to legalize assisted suicide, over 200 bills proposed in various states have been defeated outright or through some other legislative action. Five ballot measures have been defeated, while three have been enacted. Three legislatures have legalized doctor-prescribed suicide and one court has allowed it. That’s it. Fortunately, Wisconsin has been among those states where the bill has 16 times died without ever getting a vote.
I believe the bill will die this session too—thanks to the make-up of our state legislature. But that there are now powerful and well-funded national forces working tenaciously to gain victories state by state reminds me we must remain vigilant. We dare not assume that 16 defeats in Wisconsin mean it will never pass here.
We need to educate young, old and in-between so they don’t fall for the slick, emotionally laden lies that too often result in tragedy. Visit wifamilycouncil.org and click on “Resources” and “Life” for more information to help you discuss this issue.
I’m glad for the unforgettable experience I had 20 years ago. It opened my eyes and ears and prepared my mind and heart to know the truth about this issue, enabling me to work hard and smart to ensure such bills die and not people.
For Wisconsin Family Council, I’m Julaine Appling, reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”