A bill allowing doctors to help terminally ill patients take their own lives failed to clear a House committee on Tuesday when no one made a motion to advance it.
House Bill 1536, sponsored by Rep. Dan Douglas, R-Bentonville, would allow a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a patient whose illness would result in death "within a relatively short time."
To obtain the drugs, the patient would have to make two oral requests, at least 15 days apart, as well as a written request signed in the presence of two or more witnesses.
If the patient wasn't already in hospice care, the prescribing physician would have to tell the patient about other end-of-life options, including hospice and palliative care.
A second physician would also have to confirm the patient's diagnosis and that the patient was informed, acting voluntarily and able to make and communicate decisions.
"I hate to compare humans to animals, but it's a fact of life we're all going to die," Douglas, a farmer and real-estate agent, told the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor. "If I have livestock that are suffering and cannot be cured, we help them go. We put them down."
That comment drew a rebuke from Ken Yang, director of government affairs for the Little Rock-based Family Council, which he said supported the 1999 law that made physician-assisted suicide a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
"My mom and dad will never be considered livestock, and I'll never treat them as such," Yang said.
Hospice and palliative care providers also opposed the bill. They said patients may choose assisted suicide out of fear, without understanding care providers' ability to help relieve pain and anxiety at the end of a patient's live.
Bruce Campbell, Gov. Asa Hutchinson's director of appointments, spoke in favor of the bill while stressing he was speaking in his personal capacity and not on behalf of the governor.
Campbell said he has cancer and chronic kidney disease and supports giving terminally ill patients a choice in how their lives will end.
"Once you get slapped in the face with some of the stuff that I have, you start to think about it in a more concrete way," he said.
Hutchinson supported Campbell's desire to testify on the bill, but does not believe in physician-assisted suicide and doesn't support HB1536, spokesman J.R. Davis said.
According to Portland, Ore.,-based Death with Dignity, which supports laws allowing physician-assisted suicide, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington state and Washington, D.C., have laws allowing the lethal prescriptions.
Metro on 03/13/2019
Print Headline: Assisted-suicide measure stalls in Arkansas House committee