INDIANAPOLIS — Carrol Krause stopped eating, but not because she wanted to lose weight.

An incurable tumor blocked her bowels.

“I am calmly starving to death,” Krause wrote in her blog, “Stories by Carrol.”

Why was the former Herald-Times (Bloomington) journalist starving? Because Indiana does not have a medically assisted suicide policy through which a physician could prescribe a lethal drug.

Krause died Jan. 29, 2016.

State Rep. Matt Pierce of District 61, which includes most of Bloomington, has introduced a bill that would allow terminally ill patients to voluntarily end their lives. But he doesn’t believe his bill will be heard by the Public Health Committee, which would be required to pass the bill before it could reach the House floor for a vote.

“The current chair (Brad Barrett (R-Richmond) does not support this approach,” Pierce explained.

“When I introduced the bill in years past, I sat down and talked to him about the bill. He said that he couldn’t support that kind of option for people.”

Barrett did not respond to a request for comment.

Pierce has introduced similar legislation several times, but the bill has never reached the House floor.

Still, Goeff Sugarman, national campaign strategist for Death with Dignity, an organization promoting end-of-life options, said support for such legislation is growing.

Assisted suicide has been legalized in 11 states — Maine, Vermont, Oregon, New Mexico, Hawaii, Colorado, California, Montana, Washington, District of Columbia and New Jersey — either through legislation or court decisions.

The Montana Supreme Court, for example, ruled in 2009 that physicians should not be prohibited from helping patients end their lives.

Since that court decision, attempts by some Montana legislators to make suicide assistance illegal have failed.

Indiana is one of 16 states, including Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee, with pending medically assisted suicide legislation.

“What we’re seeing is a broadening of the states that are actually considering this type of legislation,” Sugarman said. “Legislators are recognizing that there is widespread public support.”

Sugarman and other advocates pushed for Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, which passed in 1997. It was fully enacted in 1998.

Since then, Oregon’s model has been used by several other states, according to Sugarman.

The Indiana bill, Pierce said, is basically Oregon’s law applied to Indiana.

The Oregon law allows physicians to assist with death if and only if the person is:

• 18 years old or older;
• Terminally ill with a life expectancy of six months or less;
• Capable of making their own medical choices;
• Doing it voluntarily. Residing in Oregon used to be a requirement but was repealed as a result of a federal lawsuit, according to NPR. The Indiana bill does have a residency requirement.

Pressure or coercion by heirs or interested parties can be a concern. Oregon’s law safeguards against it.

Two verbal requests for medically assisted suicide from the patient must be made within 15 days, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

A written request must be made in the presence of two witnesses. At least one of the witnesses cannot be an interested party. The patient’s doctor would supervise the process and would be required to refer the patient to another physician for a second opinion. Both must agree that the patient is terminally ill.

The patient would eventually be prescribed medication, which they must self-administer.

In Oregon, the medicine comes in a powdered form similar to Kool-Aid or a sports drink, according to Sugarman. It can be mixed with yogurt or a drink.

Once taken, the medicine renders the patient unconscious before death ensues.

The entire process would be voluntary, Pierce said, for both patients and doctors. Doctors and institutions in objection to assisted suicide would be able to opt out of the program.
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