Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Anti-assisted suicide bill clears Senate panel

Legislation to outlaw physician-assisted suicide in Idaho has cleared the Senate State Affairs Committee, which just voted to send SB 1070 to the full Senate with a recommendation that it pass. The bill was sponsored by anti-abortion activists, but was negotiated with the Idaho Medical Association, which got wording added to protect physicians making appropriate patient-care decisions for dying patients or following those patients' living wills or advance care directives. Ken McClure, IMA lobbyist, told the committee, "Under current law, it is not at all clear whether assisted suicide is a crime or not." It's not currently a part of Idaho's standards for patient care, he said, and doctors don't want it to be. "This law gives a physician the assurance that if proper medical care is being given, he or she is safe from prosecution," McClure told the senators.

Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, who noted she has lost three family members in the past year including her husband, former Sen. Clint Stennett, raised questions about whether the bill would hold patients, family members or doctors criminally liable for decisions about when to remove artificial life supports. "These are all very personal personal things for the family and the individual," she said.

David Ripley of Idaho Chooses Life presented the bill, and Jason Herring, president of Right to Life of Idaho, told the committee, quoting from the book of Psalms, "Unto God the Lord belong the issues from death. ... We don't believe that this belongs to a doctor or hospital, this is not something that belongs to a panel or even a patient, this is something that belongs to our Creator." He said, "Hastening their demise in death they are usurping the authority of God."

The bill makes it a felony to assist in a suicide, plus revokes the licenses of physicians who do so. It also authorizes court injunctions against anyone "reasonably believed to be about to violate" the new law.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

Follow Betsy online: