The state of assisted-suicide laws

We still don’t know — we may never know — what led financier Irwin Jacobs to allegedly kill his wife, and then himself Wednesday at their mansion in Orono.

But the suggested scenario of the couple’s situation from Dennis Mathisen, a business associate, may prompt some thinking about something we don’t ever acknowledge we think about: Would we choose to end our life if suffering is the alternative?

Maybe this is a question the Jacobs considered; maybe it’s not. We just don’t know yet.

Mathisen told the Star Tribune Jacobs’ wife, Alexandra “had been in a wheelchair for the last year or so and had signs of dementia. Irwin was just distraught over her condition.”

On a list of cruel and inhumane diseases, Alzheimer’s and dementia is at the top. There are no happy endings.

That fact is at the heart of the legislation in eight states that allow people to end their life as they see fit if death is immediately imminent.

New Jersey is the latest. The Assembly approved the “Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act,” by a 41-33 vote three weeks ago after it passed 21-16 in the State Senate.

Two other states last month, however, rejected the idea, according to Governing magazine. It fell a vote short in Maryland. And in Connecticut, supporters didn’t even have enough votes to get a vote in a committee.

Oregon was the first state to legalize assisted suicide. Since 1997, prescriptions had been written for 2,217 people, and 1,459 people have gone ahead with their plan, according to the Connecticut Post.

“Let’s be clear: this bill will become law in Connecticut someday soon,” Tim Appleton, campaign manager for Compassion & Choices in Connecticut said. “After two decades of experience with the law in Oregon, without any of the dire consequences predicted by opponents, legislatures across the country are passing aid-in-dying bills, most recently in New Jersey. Connecticut will do the right thing.”

In Minnesota, 19 representatives (all but one DFLers) sponsored similar legislation in the House this session. Seven DFLers sponsored competing legislation in the upper chamber. All were sent to their bodies respective committees where they’ve languished without hearings and will likely die.

The Death with Dignity organization published a poll in 2016 showing overwhelming support for such legislation, even among Christians. But it’s also on the radar of the powerful Minnesota Concerned Citizens for Life, which opposes it. And some bioethicists note that what voters say in the polls don’t always track with what voters say at the polls.

Like many other issues, there is a reckoning coming on the issue.

But not until it gets talked about.