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Ohio makes assisted suicide a felony

Ohio tightened its restriction on assisted suicide, joining four other states that have passed similar legislation in the last five years.

Gov. John Kasich signed HB 470, a palliative care bill with an amendment that makes assisted suicide a third-degree felony punishable by five years in prison. Ohio already allowed courts to issue injunctions against anyone assisting others to kill themselves.

Kasich’s move comes just a few days after he signed a 20-week abortion ban and vetoed a bill that sought to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

“From conception until natural death, Ohio is leading the way in honoring the dignity of the human person,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. “Thanks to the pro-life leadership of Gov. Kasich, Ohio has just placed a significant obstacle in the path of those wishing to erode and reverse our protections for the elderly and the terminally ill.”

Pro-life leaders approached Ohio state Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, this fall with a request to follow Michigan’s example of making assisted suicide a felony. Michigan adopted its restriction in 1998, well before the recent push to legalize euthanasia.

“I thought it was a good idea,” Seitz told me. “Because even though assisted suicide was against the law in Ohio already, there was not a criminal penalty attached to it.”

Seitz drafted the amendment to HB 470, which ran unopposed in both the Ohio House and Senate, he said.

Several states have worked in recent years to reinforce their bans on assisted suicide: Idaho (2011), Georgia (2012), Louisiana (2012), and Arizona (2014).

But the momentum trends more toward states wanting to legalize the practice. Several states, along with Washington, D.C., introduced legislation to legalize assisted suicide after the much publicized case of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who took her life in 2014 following a terminal brain cancer diagnosis.

So far, California and Colorado are the only states since then to legalize assisted suicide. Oregon was the first state to allow doctors to help kill their patients, in 1994, followed by Washington, Montana, Vermont, California, and Colorado.

New York will consider a bill next year to legalize assisted suicide, and on Tuesday, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a bill authorizing the practice. Congress must approve it before it can become law. Earlier this year, Maryland’s Senate killed a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide.

Seitz called his state’s new law “a welcome Christmas present for those in the pro-life movement in Ohio.”

Although the state doesn’t have “an epidemic of assisted suicide,” Seitz said he wants to make sure it stays that way.

— by Samantha Gobba

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