A retired lawyer and a retired psychologist, both Evanston residents, asked the City’s Human Services Committee on Aug. 6 to approve the concept of an ordinance that would allow a mentally competent terminally ill patient to seek medical assistance to end his or her life.

Representing a local chapter of Compassion and Choices, Fay Clayton and Missy Fleming presented information about how the state of Oregon has implemented procedures to allow doctors to help the dying as well as results of surveys indicating support for such measures.

In Oregon, the patient must be terminally ill – that is, expected to die within six months – mentally competent, alone in making the request and able to ingest the medication without assistance, Ms. Clayton said. She said there have been no reports of abuse.

Sometimes just having the pills on the bedside table gives a palliative effect, Ms. Clayton said. People know they will not die in excruciating pain.

Ms. Fleming read to the committee members information about surveys in which people for the most part responded positively to the idea of allowing a terminally ill person to seek medical aid in dying.

An Evanston ordinance allowing medical assistance in dying would help get a law passed in Springfield., Ms. Fleming and Ms. Clayton said. They added they have the support of five City Council members and of State Senator Daniel Biss and State Representatives Laura Fine and Robyn Gabel.

Committee members Aldermen Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward and Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said they did not have sufficient information to feel comfortable about voting for such an ordinance. Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, said she did not like the idea of approving an ordinance the City could not enforce.

City Health Director Evonda Thomas-Smith said, “As a public health practitioner I don’t have enough information from my colleagues in public health. I’m concerned about the cultural and religious implications. I don’t see what happens after this is done. What happens to the family?”

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, who chairs the Human Services Committee said, “I would encourage you to go ahead and educate this panel. I would like to know how important it is that Council support this, since our State legislators support it.”

Ald. Revelle added, “I do support the resolution and the effort, but it seems that in terms of my colleagues – they need more information.

“They don’t support it. I do. Since the local politicians support it, go there and work.”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...