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Michigan Democrats eye legalizing physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill

empty hospital room
Seventy one percent of Michigan voters in 1998 rejected a ballot measure to legalize the practice. (iStock photo by Ninoon)
  • Michigan Senate Democrats propose bills legalizing physician-assisted death for terminally ill patients
  • The concept, legalized in 10 states and Washington, D.C., remains controversial 
  • Supporters say it gives terminally ill patients more autonomy. Critics argue it’s ‘not the compassionate answer’

Terminally ill patients would be allowed to pursue physician-assisted death in Michigan under new state Senate legislation, reigniting a longstanding ethical debate over end-of-life care. 

Four Senate Democrats — Mary Cavanagh of Redford Township, Kevin Hertel of St. Clair Shores, Sam Singh of East Lansing and Veronica Klinefelt of Eastpointe — introduced the bills last week, shortly before lawmakers adjourned for the year.


The legislation would allow mentally competent patients to seek a prescription for life-ending medication if they have been deemed by physicians to have less than six months to live.


“Patients deserve the trust and respect to make their own medical decisions, including the choice to determine their own timeline to end ongoing suffering during the oftentimes dark battle they face,” Cavanagh said in a statement. “This is a compassionate policy that would provide Michiganders and their loved ones with peace of mind when facing terminal illness.” 

Doctors who provide assisted suicide in Michigan are now subject to criminal charges punishable by up to five years in prison.

Medical aid in dying is currently allowed in 10 states and Washington, D.C., according to the advocacy group Compassion & Choices. Oregon was the first state to do so in 1997, and 2,454 people died an assisted death in the state between 1998 and 2022. 

Michigan voters rejected a ballot measure to legalize the practice in 1998 amid national controversy over Jack Kevorkian, a Royal Oak medical pathologist who administered life-ending medication to an estimated 130 people. Seventy-one percent of Michigan voters in 1998 opposed legalization of the practice. 

Kevorkian served eight years in prison after being convicted of second-degree murder. 

Critics of the new legalization, including Right to Life of Michigan, say assisted suicide laws have eroded safeguards that ensure patients give their full consent to dying.

“We should always strive to eliminate suffering without eliminating those who suffer,” said Genevieve Marnon, Right to Life of Michigan’s legislative director. “Assisted suicide eliminates those who suffer, and that is not the compassionate answer to somebody who is walking to the end of their life.” 

Marnon also noted that political opinions on the issue aren’t inherently partisan in Michigan. 

Bill sponsors say the package includes several regulations aimed to keep physician-assisted suicide limited to the terminally ill. 


Among other restrictions, the bills would require a written request signed by the patient with witnesses, a 15-day waiting period; additional licensing requirements for prescribing physicians and criminal penalties of up to 20 years for physicians who coerce patients into the decision or forge documents with an intent to cause a patient’s death. 

“This legislation offers the solace of choice, while also providing critical safeguards to ensure its application is safe and protects our most vulnerable patients,” Singh said in a statement.

The bills were referred to the Senate Health Policy Committee for further review. Because the legislature has adjourned for the year, the earliest it could be taken up for consideration is January 2024.

How to get help

If you need mental health support, call or text 988 to reach the confidential Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, a 24-hour network of more than 200 local crisis centers throughout the country. You can chat online with a counselor at

Other resources include:

  • The Michigan Crisis and Action Hotline (MiCAL) 
    • Call or text 988
    • 24/7
    • Free and confidential
  • Amala – The Muslim Youth Hopeline: 
    • Phone (855) 95 AMALA or (855) 952-6252
    • Hours: M, W, F, Sat, and Sun from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Mental Health America 
    • Text MHA to 741741
    • Free text based support 24/7
  • National Drug & Alcohol Abuse Hotline
  • Trevor Project (LGBTQ) 
    • Phone: (866) 488-7386
    • Text: 678 678
    • Webchat
    • 24/7
  • Youth Crisis Line (Text/talk/chat)
    • (800) 843-5200
    • 24/7
  • Veterans Crisis Line 

Worried about someone?

  • Know the Signs: (800) 273-8255
  • The Michigan Crisis and Action Hotline (MiCAL) 
    • Call or text 988
    • 24/7
    • Free and confidential

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