Senator promises public town halls on physician-assisted suicide until legalized

In 2014, Dan Diaz and his wife Brittany Maynard packed up everything and moved to Oregon, where Brittany, who had a terminal illness, could use the state’s death with dignity law and pass in peace.

“I made a promise to my wife Brittany before she died that I would do what I can to help move legislation forward so that nobody would have to go through what Brittany went through,” Diaz said.

Now he’s in Arizona, where Sen. Barbara McGuire (D-8) has sponsored a bill that would legalize so-called death with dignity. SB 1136 stalled in the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee because chairwoman Nancy Barto is opposed to the legislation and refused to hear the bill.

Since she can’t get the bill heard in the usual way, she’s now trying a new approach.

“I’m hoping to have town halls to educate throughout the state of Arizona, the communities, with regards to the needs of this type of assisted passing,” McGuire said Thursday, at the first public forum of many she promised to organize before the next legislative session.

McGuire said she hopes Democrats regain a few seats in the Republican Senate in the November elections so her bill could be heard in committee.

“If you have a split, if you have 15-15 on committee, then there will be committees on both sides,” McGuire said. “You’ll have Democratic committees and Republican committees. It will get heard at one of the Democratic committees.”

Although most Arizonans support this type of legislation, Republican legislators are generally opposed, and it remains controversial among physicians.

“One of the concerns that some physicians have is that they don’t like to see the practice of medicine as including helping somebody die,” Jason Robert, director of the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, said. “That in fact might not be an appropriate goal of medicine.”

For now, the debate will have to take place outside the legislature.