Fall so far has been soggy and chilly, with sprinkles of summer and nighttime hints of winter. It’s the time for making plans for the Real Minnesota weather we know is around the corner. Have you gotten your winter garb out and ready yet, or are you like me and keeping the coat closet out of sight and out of mind? This is not a strategy I recommend. I need to get my ponchos to the dry cleaners and my hats in the washer.
At the beginning of the month, the Minnesota House of Representatives held a three-day “mini session” in Winona to listen to constituents and discuss a broad range of critical topics, including prescription drug prices. They budgeted about $100,000 for the trip, since it required legislators and staff to travel and stay overnight. News reports said the session provided a lot of valuable input. In 1997, the Legislature held about 30 mini-sessions around the state. If mini sessions catch on this time, and they come to your community, be sure to attend and help lawmakers understand the health issues you face that can be improved by state policy. It sure would be nice, for instance, if they would address increasing the wages for home care workers and other direct support professionals. There are lots of other life-sustaining needs and benefits that need legislative attention and can affect “the greater good” in Minnesota.
Speaking of greater good, you know that last month there was a hearing on legislation introduced last spring on end-of-life options for the terminally ill. In the House, the bill has 19 authors, and the Senate version has five; there seems to be major interest in taking on this divisive and difficult subject. Like most controversial legislation, this bill could dominate committee meetings and floor sessions and take up lots of time. It’s hard to know what is right or good on this issue. It’s heartbreaking to hear the stories of people who have suffered the impact of cancer and other terminal conditions for years without the ability to relieve their pain. I think this is a dilemma that too many of us have had to face with family and close friends. It seems the only compassionate thing to do is to offer relief to the people we love.
Unfortunately, I fear an ethical slippery slope would begin very quickly, and soon we would have other parties deciding who should be offered assisted suicide options. I genuinely believe that it wouldn’t take long before the determination of who is eligible for assisted suicide would include factors beyond suffering and pain. For instance, another overwhelming challenge that people who are terminally ill face is the cost of living and medical care without a job or insurance. When would cost start to be a deciding factor? And a term I’ve heard far too often from people thinking about someone else’s pain is “quality of life.” When would others start to decide that there wasn’t good enough quality of life for someone who has an illness called “terminal”? Suffering is subjective and one of those things that people can’t determine for anyone else. Many of us have met people who think that our life with a disability is suffering, or that we don’t have “quality of life.”
No matter how you contact your local House representative or state senator, be sure they hear your voice on these important issues. And as you get involved in the presidential primaries, make extra sure that these topics get on the agenda in caucuses and door-knocking campaigns so that the candidates know the disability community is here and it’s strong, and we’re advocates for our rights and dignity.
The matching grant offered by the Access Press Friends and Board of Directors has been extended until the end of the year. This is the first time in the history of Access Press that the board has made this kind of donation. We’re in the midst of strategic planning and trying to find ways to earn more money, better serve our readers, and cut costs. It would be great if all of you could donate an extra ten or twenty dollars now when you can double your gift and show the Board of Directors that you appreciate Access Press as much as I know you do.
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