N.H. “End of Life Study” Bill Advances Without Protective Language

The New Hampshire House voted 214-140 to pass HB 291, establishing a committee to study end-of-life care. Sponsors of the bill made clear when the bill was introduced that if passed, the study committee would consider assisted suicide as one type of “care.”

The House rejected an amendment from Rep. Barbara Griffin that would have prevented assisted suicide from being a topic in the study. The vote on that was 146-208.

The bill now goes to the Senate. No hearing date has been announced.

More background on HB 291 here.

House Vote Thursday: Don’t Let Assisted Suicide Be Part of End-of-Life Study

It’s back: here’s another bill to “study” end of life issues, introduced by New Hampshire legislators who are open about their determination to include assisted suicide in any such study. HB 291 is scheduled for a House vote on Thursday, March 14.

(Update, March 14: bill was passed without amendment.) 

The House Judiciary Committee majority voted ought to pass on the bill. A minority on the committee is recommending an amendment to the bill that preserves the intent of studying palliative and other end-of-life care, while excluding any possibility of the bill being used to advance assisted suicide.

I’m going to contact my representatives to support “ought to pass with amendment” on HB 291, using amendment #2019-0767h. The committee minority report written by Rep. Barbara Griffin (R-Goffstown) says in part,

The minority believes that the bill also sends a message of suicide being acceptable in a time where concerns on rising rates of suicide and work for suicide prevention are the focus of other bills and an existing Council on Suicide Prevention. Similar legislation has been before this body before and has been vetoed twice by [former] Governor Hassan. The minority believes this bill should be amended to focus the committee work on palliative and hospice care for the populations dealing with not only end of life, but also complex health and disability issues.

I’ve lost count of the pro-assisted suicide bills that have gone down to defeat or veto in our state. I say add HB 291 to that list, unless it’s amended to exclude assisted suicide as an item on the “health care” menu.

You can find your representatives’ names and contact information at http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/default.aspx.

On being “viable”

At what point would having a disability render me “unviable”?

Along with countless other people paying attention to news reports, I grieve for a Texas family coping with a terrible situation. Marlise Muñoz was reportedly declared “brain dead” last November following a pulmonary embolism. She was 14 weeks pregnant at the time. Quoting from this weekend’s Wall Street Journal: “Her husband, Erick Muñoz, had requested for weeks that she be removed from life support, but the hospital has maintained that it was required to continue medical service under a Texas law that restricts removing life support from pregnant patients, a measure designed to protect unborn children.”

A judge has just okayed removal of Mrs. Muñoz’s ventilator. Her situation will soon be settled, if not resolved. So will her child’s.

According to the family attorney who is serving as spokeswoman, the fetus has exhibited  abnormalities and is no longer viable. Scans of the fetus reportedly show lack of development of the lower body.

That brought me up short.

No longer viable? Did she mean this 22-week preborn child used to be viable, which is supposed to mean able to survive outside the mother’s body?

I don’t know. What I do know is that the hair on the back of my neck stood up when that lawyer mentioned “abnormalities” and “viability” together. A sign of the times, I guess. I get uneasy at the thought that any of us, born or preborn, has to be considered normal before being considered worth protecting.

Perhaps I’m reading the worst into the situation. Pregnant women die every day, and their children die with them. It’s just that the juxtaposition of abnormalities with viability gets to me.

I pray for the Muñoz family, and for the doctors and attorneys who are working with them. I pray everyone’s being well-served by the professionals in this case.