'Death With Dignity' Advocate To Speak at ISU | WGLT

'Death With Dignity' Advocate To Speak at ISU

Sep 27, 2019

Advocates for medically-assisted suicide are trying to lay the groundwork for Illinois to pass a "death with dignity" law.

Barbara Coombs Lee, President of Compassion and Choices, will be speaking at ISU's Alumni Center on Oct. 7 at 7 p.m.
Credit Compassion and Choices

Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion and Choices, will be leading a discussion about end-of-life choices at Illinois State University's Alumni Center on Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. She said anyone who is suffering a terminal illness should have the option to take their own life peacefully.

“Most illnesses are gradually progressive and sometimes enter an extremely long, a prolonged dying stage,” Coombs Lee said.

Nine states and the District of Columbia allow medically-assisted suicide, but none in the Midwest.

“I have no doubt at some point Illinois will join those jurisdictions,” she said. “It would be difficult to predict when that might be.”

Illinois has no current legislation on "death with dignity." Cooms Lee said the group is starting a grassroots education effort in the state.

According to the Death with Dignity website, the Illinois legislature considered a “voluntary euthanasia” bill in the 1930s. The bill never went to vote. Illinois considered physician-assisted dying bills in 1997, but those efforts failed.

Coombs Lee said regardless of what someone’s end-of-life wishes may be, they need to put it in writing and convey those wishes to loved ones, something many fail to do.

“It’s never too early to talk about what you would want if the time came when you could not speak for yourself and you were permanently unconscious or terminally ill,” Coombs Lee said.

She added several high-profile cases, Karen Ann Quinlan, Terry Schiavo and Nancy Cruzan have raised awareness about the need for advanced directives.

“All those three women helped shape the law around end-of-life decisions because they and their loves once found themselves in situations where there was doubt about what a person would want, how much life-sustaining, life-prolonging treatment they would want if they were suddenly in the situation in which they actually did find themselves,” Coombs Lee said.

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