By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Critics call it assisted suicide, supporters prefer the term medically aid in dying.

Whatever you want to call it, a bill that would allow physician-assisted deaths in Minnesota was debated at the Capitol Wednesday.

The hearing room at the State Office Building was packed. Many people, including those who testified, were in wheelchairs.

As of January 2020, physician-assisted death will be legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. Now, there is a bill that would make it legal in Minnesota, too.

In a packed hearing room, lawmakers listened to dramatic testimony in favor of a bill that would allow anyone who had been diagnosed by two doctors with a terminal illness to get a prescription to end their life.

Marianne Turnbull of St. Paul has stage 4 ovarian cancer.

“I am also here because I have been told I don’t have much time because I have cancer,” Turnbull said.

She begged legislators to give her the option of getting that medical help.

“I want the option to have this medicine on my nightstand. That, my friends, will decrease the anxiety I have every day living with cancer,” Turnbull said.

So did ALS patient Bobbi Jacobsen who, as a legislator wiped away a tear, spoke with the help of a voice synthesizer.

“I can no longer walk, talk or toilet myself without assistance,” Jacobsen said. “I would like to have the option for a peaceful, painless death.”

But at an earlier news conference, critics were just as passionate, arguing the law would make it easier to terminate the lives of the disabled. Kathy Ware of South St. Paul spoke about her 25-year-old son Kylen, a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy.

“This bill bolsters bigotry in the medical profession towards people with disabilities like Kylen, This bill promotes bias and prejudice and says you’re better off dead than disabled,” Ware said.

While this bill will be introduced in the 2020 legislature, it’s not clear how far it will go. The powerful Chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee Republican Sen. Michelle Benson said the bill won’t even get a hearing in the GOP-controlled Senate.

The legislature will convene its next session Feb. 11, 2020.

Esme Murphy

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