'Death with Dignity' bill proposed in Indiana

Carrol Krause (Jim Krause)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WTHR) — A bill proposed at the Statehouse would allow people who've been given six months to live the option of ending their own lives.

Eight states, plus the District of Columbia, currently have "death with dignity" laws.

Bloomington Democratic Rep. Matt Pierce submitted a bill that would add Indiana to that list.

Pierce said he never thought a lot about end-of-life issues until it felt personal.

A few years ago, he read the blogs of a popular columnist and constituent in Bloomington, Carrol Krause.

"She was a quilter, she was an artist, she was a writer, just an avid blogger and she loved to stop and smell the flowers and write about them," said Jim Krause, Carrol's brother. "When she got sick, she wrote about her sickness openly."

Carrol faced a deadly diagnosis of a rare form of ovarian cancer.

"Her experience lasted over two years," Jim said. "It came with a lot of pain and suffering."

Her columns included expressing the desire for choice in end-of-life decisions.

"She was in great pain. She couldn't eat. She couldn't digest. Her whole system shut down," Jim said. "She just wanted a graceful way out and a way to end the suffering and that's why she became a proponent of the death with dignity bill."

That was in 2016.

Every year since, Pierce has introduced a "death with dignity" bill.

His proposal is modeled after a law in Oregon.

It would let adults with terminal illness, who are expected to pass away within six months, to request medication to end their own lives.

The request is in writing.

The medication is self-administered.

And the patient has to meet requirements, including a 15-day waiting period and psychological evaluations, before doctors agree to the request.

"That doctor then has to certify that you're competent, that you're not suffering depression and it also has to be witnessed by a couple witnesses who will say it is voluntary, that the person was of sound mind and there wasn't any coercion involved," Pierce said.

Some opponents say any assisted suicide is morally wrong.

And Pierce says some Republican colleagues are afraid to talk about the topic because it's controversial and may not sit well with social conservatives.

Supporters say this is about humanity in the face of suffering.

Pierce says he'll keep sponsoring the bill, at least to keep the conversation going.

"Why can't I have some control over my own dignity and my own body? Why can't an individual have that option if they want to exercise it," Pierce said.

"This is when death is imminent. It's just a matter of weeks, days. What this death with dignity does is it just gives patients like Carrol a chance to go on their own terms," Jim Krause said. "Then you can be surrounded by family and it would be a graceful exit as opposed to just letting that pain and suffering last who knows how long."

To read the entire bill, click here.

If the bill passes, it would go into effect July 1, 2020.