Credit: sumroeng chinnapan, shutterstock

A bill to legalize assisted suicide in Indiana has come under fire by Catholic and pro-life groups shortly after it was introduced in the Indiana Legislature.

House Bill 1157, which was introduced by State Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington), would allow adults who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness to end their own lives with the assistance of a doctor, following a 15-day waiting period and other psychological examinations.

Pierce submitted a similar bill during last year’s legislative session, however, the bill did not make it out of committee.

Glenn Trebbe, the executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, told the Chicago Tribune that he thinks the bill’s characterization as one that allows patients to choose “death with dignity” is a “misnomer” as it will result in doctors being given permission to kill people.

“We see that as a misnomer, really, because what the bill does is allow doctors to assist in killing their patients,” Trebbe said. Trebbe also told the Tribune that there are better ways to treat a dying person with dignity than by offering them drugs that will kill them.  

Currently, six states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized assisted suicide. The most recent of these was the District of Columbia, whose law went into effect in February of 2017.

The proposed bill in Indiana was modeled after laws in Oregon. Oregon was the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide, in 1994, but the law did not go into effect until 1997. In 2016, the most recent year statistics are available, doctors in Oregon prescribed lethal drugs to 204 patients. Slightly under two thirds of this number chose to end their own life. More than three-fourths of the patients who ended their lives via assisted suicide in Oregon had been diagnosed with cancer. The next largest percentage of patients had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

According to the USCCB’s fact sheet against assisted suicide, some seriously ill patients in Oregon have been told by their insurance companies that they will not cover the cost of treatment, but will cover the cost of drugs to commit suicide. Further, since assisted suicide was legalized, the state’s overall suicide rate has steadily increased and is now above the national average. The USCCB advocates for improving palliative care for the dying, instead of hastening someone’s death.

House Bill 1157 is awaiting committee hearings.