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As Legislative Session Ends, WI Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill Stalls Again

Close-up of hands of senior woman lying in hospital ward
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Close-up of hands of senior woman lying in hospital ward

Wisconsin's legislative session has drawn to a close, and a measure to permit medical aid in dying for terminally ill patients was one of many bills to stall in the committee process.

The legislation was introduced last month and referred to two legislative committees, where it expired without receiving a public hearing.

Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Mount Horeb, who has introduced the measure three times, said the right to a peaceful death should be guaranteed for terminally ill patients.

"I see no reason we should deprive terminally ill patients a physician-assisted death as one option, along with the palliative care issues that we talk to them about," Pope contended.

Many arguments against medical aid in dying are either due to concerns people could be coerced into it, or based in religious objections. Per the bill, those who seek medical aid in dying must, among other requirements, confirm their wishes multiple times, have less than six months to live, be judged mentally sound by an attending physician, and the medication must be self-administered.

Eleven other states considered medical aid-in-dying bills in their most recent legislative sessions, and many of those proposals have stalled in legislative committees, despite strong public approval for the process.

A new poll by Compassion & Choices found nearly 70% of voters support medical aid in dying.

Jim Lee, CEO of Susquehanna Polling and Research, which conducted the survey, noted nearly equal amounts of Republican and Democratic respondents indicated support.

"The fact that we have strong consensus on this type of medical issue, I think, speaks volumes," Lee remarked.

Kim Callinan, CEO of Compassion & Choices, which advocates for the right to medical aid in dying for the terminally ill, said the poll also showed voters are more likely to support lawmakers who introduce or sponsor medical aid-in-dying bills.

"The survey shows us that voters nationwide are eight times more likely than they are less likely to vote for a candidate for state Legislature if they sponsor or support medical aid in dying," Callinan reported.

A separate 2020 Gallup poll largely reinforced the Compassion & Choices poll findings. In the survey, roughly 75% of respondents indicated they supported medical aid in dying for terminally ill patients.

Jonah Chester is Wisconsin Public Radio's 2022-2023 Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellow embedded in the Wisconsin Watch newsroom. He most recently worked at Public News Service, a national radio news service, where he covered Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. He previously produced the 6 O'Clock News at WORT 89.9 FM in Madison, where he won numerous awards from the Milwaukee Press Club and Wisconsin Broadcasters Association for his reporting on issues in Dane County and south-central Wisconsin.
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