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Iowa Legislators, Religious Leaders, Advocates, Physicians and Family of Terminally Ill Individuals Introduce Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill

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A group of Iowa lawmakers joined doctors, religious leaders and advocates to launch the End-of-Life Options Act (SF 2156/HF 2302.) The bill would allow terminally ill adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take to die peacefully in their sleep if their suffering becomes unbearable.

State Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) joined Rep. Mary Mascher (D-Iowa City) to introduce the bill today during a news conference at the state capitol. The legislation is modeled after Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which has been successfully implemented for more than 20 years with no record of abuse or misuse.

“True compassion for Iowans facing terminal painful deaths means supporting end-of-life medical aid-in-dying options,” said Senator Bolkcom. “Compassionate, responsible end-of-life medical care must become part of Iowa law.”

“Iowans who are terminally ill “deserve the right to determine how they choose to live their final days,” said Rep. Mascher. “This bill will empower them to make those decisions with their physicians and families.”

Luanna Raushenberger spoke about surgeries and endless rounds of chemotherapy from the uterine, breast, lung and skin cancers that have plagued her life since she was a 26-year-old expectant mom. She also recalled the death of her 22-year old granddaughter, Jenna, who suffered unnecessarily before her death on hospice.

“I’ve already had my fair share of pain,” she said. “I don’t want to suffer needlessly at the end of my life and that is why I want medical aid in dying available in my home state of Iowa.I believe no one else should get to decide for a terminally ill person how much pain they must endure.”

“Comforting a dying patient and relieving their suffering when no cure is possible is the highest form of healing,” said Dr. Steve Herwig, a retired head and neck surgeon from West Des Moines. “When there is no treatment able to alleviate that suffering, medication that provides a peaceful death would be a welcome option for some.”

Sue Roelle compared her parents and sister’s painful death to cancer in Iowa to that of her younger sister, Patty Wulf, who died from cancer peacefully in California.

“Patty had the option to die peacefully thanks to California’s End of Life Option Act, which gave her the option to obtain prescription medication that she ingested to die gently at a time of her choosing,” she said. “But her death from stage 4 uterine cancer was quite different from mom’s, dad’s and Diane’s. “

Unitarian Universalist Pastor Emma Peterson shared her experience as a hospital chaplain, comforting dying patients and their families.

“The loss of autonomy and ability to make personal decisions are among the most frustrating and humiliating elements of the end-of-life process,” she said. “Expanding options for those who are dying is an act of compassion.”

“Terminally-ill Iowans and their families need to be made aware that this bill would allow them to evaluate additional healthcare options available to them at the end of life,” said Amy Sherman, midwest regional campaign manager for Compassion & Choices.

John Chaplin, an ordained United Church of Christ minister and Des Moines resident, watched his partner of 23 years die a painful death from Alzheimer’s complications.

“I envision Jesus as one who called people forth to an abundant and shared life,” Chaplin said. “To living well and, I believe, to dying well.”

Two-thirds of Americans (67%) support medical aid-in-dying. Majority support included most faith groups, including those who identify as Christians (59%), Catholics (70%), Protestants (53%), those of other religions (70%) and those who identify as non-religious (84%), according to a 2016 LifeWay Research,.

Nine states, plus the District of Columbia, now authorize medical aid-in-dying. Those include Oregon, Washington, Montana Vermont, California  and Colorado, Hawaiʻi (via legislation in 2018, New Jersey and Maine and the District of Columbia.  Collectively, these 10 jurisdictions represent 22 percent of the nation’s population and have 50 years of experience safely implementing these laws.


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