Aldermen on Evanston's Human Services Committee balked Monday at offering support for a resolution that would encourage the state legislature to legalize medical aid in dying.
The resolution was proposed by Evanston residents who are members of a national organization called Compassion & Choices, which seeks to expand the number of states that permit a terminally ill, mentally capable adult to ask his or her physician for a prescription for medication that the patient may choose to take to end their pain and suffering and bring about a peaceful death.
Oregon became the first state to adopt a death with dignity or physician-assisted suicide law in 1997. It's been joined by six other states and the District of Columbia, with Hawaii becoming the most recent addition to the list last April.
Fay Clayton of Compassion & Choices said the laws have strict safeguards and that there have been no reports of abuses in the 21 years since Oregon adopted its statute.
But Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, said she would be concerned about abuses.
Robin Rue Simmons.
"This is quite a heavy decision," Rue Simmons said. "I understand it's just a resolution, just symbolic, but I can't right now support any steps forward for it."
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she felt "totally unqualified to make a decision" on the issue.
Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, said believed the city shouldn't spend time having its legal staff review resolutions on issues that the city doesn't control "when we're down two lawyers in our legal department."
Evanston's state representative, Robyn Gabel and Laura Fine, both support the legislation, Clayton said, but she said the group has found that the non-binding local resoluations can help prompt state legislatures to act on the issue.
Only Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, who was chairing the meeting, said she supports the resolution, but she said it appeared that "a lot of education needs to be done" before the City Council might be ready to adopt it.
The committee opted not to forward the draft resolution submitted by the group to the city's legal department for review.
At least for now that halts any move toward having the full City Council adopt the measure.