Evanston’s Human Services Committee voted Monday night to send a resolution supporting death with dignity legislation to the full City Council — but three of the four committee members present suggested they might vote against the measure there.

More than a dozen people wearing yellow “Compassion and Choices” t-shirts showed up to support the medical aid in dying measure while a smaller group of disability activists appeared to oppose it.

Using a text-reading computer attached to his wheelchair, Larry Biondi said every national disability organization opposes assisted suicide.

If the legislation were adopted, he said, it would become “the cheapest treatment available in our profit-driven health care system,” and he claimed there would be no real enforcement for the safeguards against abuse contained in the legislation.

John Lionberger.

But John Lionberger, chaplain at the Three Crowns Park retirement community in Evanston, said that in his conversations with residents there, almost universally they would like “this kind of otion to allow them the autonomy to make decisions about their own lives.”

Lionberger said his own father died screaming in pain, and it’s not the act of dying, but dying a painful death that scares people as they age.

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said that in 20 years since the adoption of the first death with dignity statute in Oregon there had been no evidence of coercion or abuse there and that nine other states have since adopted such legislation.

But Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said that while he felt it was important for the full Council to have an opportunity to debate the issue, “based on my own spiritual and cultural beliefs, I’m not in favor of it.”

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she didn’t feel it was appropriate for the City Council to be expressing its opinion on legislation over which it has no jurisdiction.

Robyn Gabel.

But State Rep. Robyn Gabel of Evanston said she would be in a far stronger position advocating for the bill “if I can show that my home towns supports me.”

Aldeman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, said her views were somewhere between those of Braithwaite and Fiske.

“I think this should go to the full Council,” Fleming said, “but I don’t think its within our capacity” to decide such an issue.

Related stories

Death with dignity issue to return to committee (1/30/20)

Aldermen balk at death with dignity resolution (8/7/18)

Should Council vote on issues it can’t control? (1/19/20)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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