DES MOINES, Iowa -- Fred Hubbell, the Des Moines businessman and Democratic candidate for governor, said on Monday that Iowa should consider joining six other states in legalizing physician-assisted suicide. However, he stopped short of calling for changes to the laws to allow that.
Hubbell held a health-themed discussion with about a dozen supporters, activists, and Democratic state lawmakers at Creative Visions in Des Moines. Toward the end of the hour-long event, some of the group started discussing the challenges of determining the best care for the terminally ill.
State Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, shared the story of a relative who had died after suffering from an incurable disease. "Was just miserable," she said of her relative's final months of life.
Hubbell urged Iowans to have a conversation about whether it is best for the terminally ill to suffer as Wessel-Kroeschell's relative did or, "Do they want to work with their doctor and maybe take a different path?"
In 1997, Oregon became the first state to make it legal for doctors to provide lethal medicines for people who have a terminal illness that leaves them with six months or less to live. Since then, six other states have legalized the practice.
In 2016, a Des Moines Register Poll found that 59% of Iowans supported a person's right to die, although the legislature has not passed any provisions to legalize it.
Some in the medical community say it can be difficult to accurately determine how much longer a person will live, and the American Medical Association doesn't approve of doctor's involvement in a person's choice to die. A statement on the organization's website reads:
"It is understandable, though tragic, that some patients in extreme duress—such as those suffering from a terminal, painful, debilitating illness—may come to decide that death is preferable to life. However, permitting physicians to engage in assisted suicide would ultimately cause more harm than good."
When Channel 13 asked Hubbell how he would discuss the matter with those who may have moral or ethical concerns, he responded, "By having a conversation. There are always different forms of belief on about any subject. But what I find is that if you want to be a transparent leader, then you try to find where people agree--what unites people--not what divides them."