Our Sponsors:

Read more »

Our Members

Many thanks to Steve Ohlenkamp and Katherine Olson some of our many supporters.

ALL MEMBERS »

Taking 'Death with Dignity' lessons from Oregon

Washington state voters must soon make up their minds about I-1000, a measure supporting physician-assisted suicide, which appears on the ballot this November. Former Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts championed a similar law in her home state and supports I-1000. Here's a look at the results of Oregon's law, passed in 1997, and the issues surrounding it.
Former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts speaking at an Emily's List conference in 2006. (Wikipedia contributor <a href='http://www.andiepetkus.com/' target='_blank'>Andie Petkus</a>)

Former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts speaking at an Emily's List conference in 2006. (Wikipedia contributor Andie Petkus) None

They served together as progressive Democratic governors and now, as retired senior statesmen, Booth Gardner and Barbara Roberts have a common cause in advancing a "Death with Dignity" law for Washington that is modeled on the Oregon law created by citizen initiative while Roberts was governor. Few people are more familiar with the Oregon experience than Roberts, governor from 1991 to 1995.

Roberts notes that she watched the evolution of Oregon's law "every step of the way." She was a state legislator when her husband, State Sen. Frank Roberts, introduced the first physician-assisted suicide bills in the Oregon Legislature, all of which failed. She was governor when her husband died of cancer, during the initiative campaign to put the measure on the ballot. She spoke for it in 1994 and 1997. Later she took training for volunteers dealing with end-of-life issues, wrote a book on dying and grieving, and stood by her best friend when she obtained prescriptions to end her life (but ultimately decided against using them). Roberts has testified before legislatures in Vermont and California.

The public in Oregon, and many other states, supports physician-assisted suicide, Roberts is convinced. Because the subject is "frightening to legislators," she adds, a citizen initiative like Oregon's and like I-1000 is generally the only way to pass the law. Roberts spoke with Former Washington Governor Booth Gardner when he began his initiative efforts, and will appear in advertising for the initiative.

I-1000, the Washington "Death with Dignity" initiative, like the Oregon law, applies only to adult patients who are determined by two physicians to be terminally ill, facing death within six months, and mentally capable of making a decision to end their lives. They may request a physician to prescribe a life-ending overdose, usually either secobarbital or pentobarbital, which the patient would self-administer. Applications must be both written and oral, with witnesses.

Oregon has had 11 years' experience with the type of law that Washington voters decide this fall. The law has survived a ballot challenge, a U.S. Supreme Court test, and a full-court press by the Bush Administration. It maintains strong support in the state, and the experience has brought several unexpected results and debunked most of the fears raised by opponents.

Opponents feared the law would be "a burden on the poor," who would be pressured to die rather than run up large medical bills. Statistics collected by the Oregon Public Health Division indicate a population of patients not likely to fit that description. A full 99 percent had either Medicare and private insurance or both, 50 percent had college or graduate degrees, and 66 percent were married or widowed. Patient populations were overwhelmingly (97.4 percent) white. A private organization, Compassion and Choices of Oregon, goes beyond the state's statistics, adding that an equal number (42 percent) of patients self-identified as Republican or Democrat, and 89 percent self-identified with a religious faith.

Roberts is well-equipped to rebut fears that the law would target people with disabilities. She is the mother of an autistic son and was a parent-lobbyist for the disabled long before she entered politics. "Let me state emphatically, I would never support a law that was harmful to individuals with disabilities. This proposed law is not a slippery slope that threatens those with disabilities of any kind," Roberts states in a recent Post-Intelligencer op-ed.

No previously disabled person has used the Oregon law.

Some opponents predicted a rash of applicants from outside Oregon, but that has not occurred. In fact, the use of the law has been rare. The 341 deaths were less than three thousandths of one percent of Oregon deaths from the same diseases during the same period. Doctors had written 541 prescriptions for patients during this period, so less than two-thirds of patients actually used the life-ending drugs. It is unknown how many other Oregonians explored the assisted-suicide option, but Compassion and Choices, a leading organization in this area, reports counseling 160 people during 2007, of which only 31 used the assisted-suicide option. Most others were referred to hospice care or to religious or spiritual counselors. Volunteers reported talking 11 people out of committing violent suicide. "There is no tidal wave of patients moving to Oregon to die, and there is no evidence of a slippery slope toward involuntary euthanasia there, as opponents once feared," the American Medical Association newsletter reported in its May 12 issue. Both doctors and organizations working with patients are required to recommend that patients notify family members; the state reports that 94.7 percent of patients did notify family.


Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!

Comments:

Posted Thu, Sep 18, 8:19 a.m. Inappropriate

I Have No Desire to Receive Elder Care: I've seen elder care in this country and frankly, have no desire to receive it. When my time comes, I have no fear of death - it's a great life and should end when I can no longer care for myself.

Posted Thu, Sep 18, 9:28 a.m. Inappropriate

what [rat] said: I don't think anyone who's seen someone go through the end stages in our current system will vote against this. We really need options when faced with painful but slow deaths.

Posted Thu, Sep 18, 10:02 a.m. Inappropriate

What Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini: did to control the people who were either "inferior", dissidents, in the way of their tyrannical rule or whom they just didn't like will go down in history as a blip in the annals of humanity's inhumanity as so-called civilized societies rush to their own demise.

First we encourage and expect mothers to murder their own children.

Then we encourage and hope to create humans in a lab solely to kill them for their cellls.

Now we encourage and expect people just to kill themselves.

Next? Mandated murder.

The U.S. has had to export workers to replace the millions killed through abortion while taxpayers fund the education, health care and criminal activities of millions of illegals. All the while the lifeline of the elderly and disabled poor-Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare will eventually crumble under debt, fraud and abuse unless the entire wealth of the productive is confiscated to fund these programs.

When the economy tanks due to government confiscation of the nation's wealth, the only solution will be to eliminate the unproductive who are a drain on the nation.

Even before the economy tanks the population controllers, misguided "compassionate", scare-mongers (liberals, radical environmentalists, feminists, and man-made global warming myth proponents), and wealthy will demand an end to the "suffering" of those unproductive ill and elderly, a drain on the economy, and bring out all of their "eugenics is compassion" rhetoric, spending billions convincing the young they will not have a future if these economic drains are allowed to survive.

It isn't a matter of concocting a law good enough so that only those the law determines has a "right to kill themselves" (impossible at any rate) actually take the lethal cocktail, it is a matter of respecting human life.

That respect is eroding in incremental steps which will lead to bigger steps to the time that anyone's life will be subject to scrutiny for its value.

Rather than proposing people who are suffering kill themselves and give them the means to do so, we ought to spend more time and resources on pallative care, hospice and "dignity in living" campaigns. If human life is worth nothing because of the suffering inevitable as we all head towards our own "termination", then we have become nothing more than animals, uncivilized, barbaric animals.
Lainie

Posted Thu, Sep 18, 10:13 a.m. Inappropriate

I won't go gentle into that good night: For decades, we've been cavalierly sucking innocent life down a sink with unrestricted abortion on demand. Now we're about to rush pall mall into putting human beings down like we would a sick animal.

Life is precious and should be respected on both the front end and back end. Sadly, however, instead of respect, we're brushing up against convenience and comfort as the be all, end all of it all.

Must we become a culture that worships death as the ultimate purpose of life?

My mother heroically battled lung cancer for a long time. She struggled and fought with courage and dignity until the last moment of her appointed days. The son I lost at three days after his own heroic struggle to live should have been, to some, either aborted or allowed to die in order to spare future expense or avoid inconvenience.

To honor them, I oppose I-1000.

Welsh poet Dylan Thomas said it:

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

There is purpose in life, even life that is imperfect at birth, pained, or near its natural end - none of us lives for self alone.

The Piper

Posted Thu, Sep 18, 10:53 a.m. Inappropriate

RE: I won't go gentle into that good night: If your mother had been pleading for weeks to end the pain, would you have "honored" her by saying no? Long-term pain with no hope of recovery isn't an "inconvenience". It's a torture put in place by those that wish to force their religion upon us.

Posted Thu, Sep 18, 1:41 p.m. Inappropriate

RE: I won't go gentle into that good night: My mother - Ma, to me - was born of stern Minnesota pioneer stock. No one ever forced anything on her. This was a woman who moved to Kodiak, AK at age 56 to start a new life and earn enough to pay off debts left her by a no-account ex-husband (not my father). She succeeded at both.

When told by her oncologist that she had a finite amount of time and that some of it would be painful, all she wanted to know was whether she would still be able to play bridge and visit with her grandchildren.

In life and in death, Ma set an example, the pain of both notwithstanding.

The Piper

Posted Thu, Sep 18, 3:30 p.m. Inappropriate

Matt:: If you took the time to look at the reports from Oregon's Department of Health Services about assisted murder you would learn that pain isn't among the top four reasons cited by people wishing to commit suicide. The top two are losing automony and less able to engage in activities that make life enjoyable. Then comes losing control of bodily functions, and then loss of dignity.

And these reports are interesting in that of the 292 people who have killed themselves in Oregon since it was legal 284 were white. It seems Asians, blacks, Hispanics and American Indians don't particularly care to kill themselves.
Lainie

Posted Thu, Sep 18, 3:41 p.m. Inappropriate

It's interesting that the American Medical Association: is ardently against physician's becoming killers instead of healers.

In an editorial published by them on April 21, 2003, they said:

"This represents both a tragedy and a challenge for the medical profession and for society. A dignified and pain-free end of life--without perverting medicine's mission--is achievable.

The medical profession needs to do its share, both clinically and in terems of advocacy, to ensure that dying patients are provided optimal treatment for
these discomforts, both physical and emotional."
Lainie

Posted Thu, Sep 18, 4:26 p.m. Inappropriate

RE: Matt:: Whatever. I've known someone die slowly in pain that didn't have the option of taking their own life.

It's criminal that our society forces people to go through this. There is no palliative care that's good enough for end-stage cancer. Please tell me when it's my turn you won't force me to lay drugged up and in pain for my last weeks on earth. Waterboarding is a far preferable form of torture to what we make our elderly go through. I'm glad Piper's mother was tough enough to take it. It's scarring when they're not.

Posted Thu, Sep 18, 5:30 p.m. Inappropriate

RE: It's interesting that the American Medical Association: "The medical profession needs to do its share, both clinically and in terms of advocacy, to ensure that dying patients are provided optimal treatment for these discomforts, both physical and emotional," but they haven't in the past, don't now and show no inclination to so in the future. They are more afraid of the Feds coming after them for over prescribing narcotics than they are concerned for the welfare of their patients and those last days of life are very profitable for hospitals and the attending physicians. Greed and cowardice overwhelm human compassion in the majority of cases.

Posted Thu, Sep 18, 6:05 p.m. Inappropriate

Matt,: you can always move to Oregon in your last days.

Or the Netherlands where the slippery slope that doesn't exist seems to have made it there.

The longest experience we have with assisted suicide is in the Netherlands, or Holland, where active euthanasia as well as assisted suicide have been legally tolerated for more than 25 years.

The Netherlands has become a frightening laboratory experiment because assisted suicide and euthanasia have grown from a rare occurrence to standard practice that claims thousands of lives each year. At the same time, improvements in pain management and palliative care have slowed.

"Pressure for improved palliative care appears to have evaporated," according to Herbert Hendin, M.D. Dr. Hendin is a Director of Suicide Prevention International and was formerly the Medical Director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

"Over the past two decades," Hendin continued, "the Netherlands has moved from assisted suicide to euthanasia, from euthanasia for the terminally ill to euthanasia for the chronically ill, from euthanasia for physical illness to euthanasia for psychological distress and from voluntary euthanasia to nonvoluntary and involuntary euthanasia.

"Once the Dutch accepted assisted suicide it was not possible legally or morally to deny more active medical (assistance to die), i.e. euthanasia, to those who could not effect their own deaths. Nor could they deny assisted suicide or euthanasia to the chronically ill who have longer to suffer than the terminally ill or to those who have psychological pain not associated with physical disease. To do so would be a form of discrimination.

Involuntary euthanasia has been justified as necessitated by the need to make decisions for patients not [medically] competent to choose for themselves."

Research shows that, for one thousand people a year in the Netherlands, physicians have ended their patients' lives without any request from or consultation with the patients.

Even Booth Gardner, assisted-suicide advocate, admitted that it's only the beginning - in other words, begin with the terminally ill and progress to the reality in the Netherlands.
Lainie

Posted Thu, Sep 18, 6:14 p.m. Inappropriate

ratcityreprobate,: I suppose it became fashionable to claim compassion when people want to murder the truly innocent - the unborn. Now that has morphed to the terminally ill.

That those in the medical community are against assisted suicide ought to be a clue that they don't want to kill people. (Of course abortionists aren't in this group but they are miscreants schooled in Peter Singer and radical feminist philosophy).

We do not have a right to ask healers to be killers. If people want to kill themselves they can, and have, in many different ways. If they want to legally kill themselves maybe they ought to be taken down to the nearest Planned Parenthood abortion clinic and ask the doctor's there to do it and report their death as an abortion. Since they aren't regulated, they could get away with it.
Lainie

Posted Thu, Sep 18, 6:16 p.m. Inappropriate

Washington State residents: didn't ask for an assisted-suicide initiative. Portland based Death with Dignity National Center (DDNC), along with Compassion & Choices (formerly the Hemlock Society), devised a plan in 2005 called "Oregon plus One" to break the logjam after 21 states have refused to pass a physician-suicide law.

It is based on the premise that if just one more state follows Oregon's lead, then other states will fall in line. The plan was put into effect in early 2006. In its 2007 annual report, the DDNC noted that it had spent a year researching and collecting data to determine which state was most likely to adopt a Death with Dignity law and through those efforts, identified Washington as that state.

After choosing Washington as the target state, they have directed $1.5 million in the campaign to get the law on the ballot.

I-1000 is worse than Oregon's law:

1. It requires physician's to lie about the true cause of death when a person commits suicide. Washington State Medical Association president, Brian Wicks, M.D., described the requirement in a WSMA press release opposing the initiative:

"Under I-1000, if a physician prescribes a lethal overdose, when that physician completes the death certificate, he or she is required - actually required - to list the underlying disease (say lung cancer) as the cause of death, even when the doctor knows full well that the patient died due to the suicidal overdose he or she prescribed. To my knowledge there's no other situation in medicine in which the death certificate is deliberately falsified - and in which this falsification is mandated by law."

2. No person will be subjected to civil or criminal liability if they acted in "good faith" in relation to this law. There is no definition of "good faith" so it can mean anything or everything. (See Section 19 of I-1000).

3. There is no protection for the patient once the prescription is written. While the requests for assisted suicide are to be made knowingly and voluntarily, there is no provision that the patient must knowingly and voluntarily take the lethal drugs. And while they are to be "self-administered", there isn't anything in the law that penalizes another person who actually administers the deadly cocktail. The dead person certainly can't certify that he/she self-administered the drug(s).

Michigan Law Review analysis:

The June 2008 issue of the prestigious Michigan Law Review compiled an analysis of the ramifications of Oregon's assisted suicide law and the evidence isn't pretty. Dr. Herbert Hendin, psychiatrist and CEO/Medical Director of Suicide Prevention International, a nonprofit organization located in New York, and Dr. Kathleen Foley, neurologist and professor at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, examined the Oregon story.
The Hendin-Foley study (found here in PDF) cites specific examples where opinions of patients' long-time attending physicians are ignored and doctors with only a smattering of familiarity with the patient write the prescription for the lethal dose of barbiturates.

Drs. Hendin and Foley summed up the concerns, saying, "If the patient has seen no one knowledgeable enough to undertake to understand and relieve the desperation, anxiety, and depression that underlie most requests for assisted suicide, then even if the patient is capable, an informed decision is not possible."
Lainie

Posted Thu, Sep 18, 7:42 p.m. Inappropriate

The Oregon Statistics are Consistent with Abuse.: The Oregon Statistics are Consistent with Abuse.

I am an attorney who has studied I-1000. I strongly disagree with this article by Floyd McKay.

On August 20, 2008, I published a guest column in the Seattle Times, which described the lack of safeguards in I-1000 that put people with assets, i.e., the middle class and above, at risk of being killed by their heirs for money. The Oregon statistics are consistent with my column. The statistics show that most death with dignity participants were well-educated people with private insurance (people with money). http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/pas/docs/year10.pdf.

Another group at risk are the poor. The lethal drugs cost less than $100; care can cost far more. An incentive is thus created for health-care insurers to steer the poor to take the pill and save the insurers money. This has already happened in Oregon with the case of Barbara Wagner: the Oregon Health plan would not pay for treatment to prolong her life; it would pay for the lethal dose. Without funds to pay for the treatment, she was steered into suicide. See Rita L. Marker, Oregon's Suicidal Approach to Health Care, September 14, 2008. http://noassistedsuicide.com/news.html.

People like Barbara Wagner are also reflected in Oregon's statistics. These statistics show that 35% of participants had medicare or medicaid. http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/pas/docs/year10.pdf.

Today, in the Seattle P-I, there are letters to the editor by attorneys, Dirk Bartram and Rod Harmon, taking issue with a guest column written by former Oregon Governor, Barbara Roberts. Mr. Bartram and Mr. Harmon describe the lack of safeguards, which put people with money at risk. For example, Mr. Bartram states:

[L]ike Oregon's law, I-1000 doesn't require that a witness be present when the lethal dose is taken. Without a disinterested witness, no one (including Roberts) would know if the sick person was coerced or tricked into taking the lethal drug by a greedy heir or burdened caregiver willing to rationalize homicide.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/379508_ltrs18.html (scroll down to see).

Mr. Harmon makes a similar comment:

Real safeguards would shine a light on the act of killing to make sure that the dying patient is the one who chose to kill herself, and not a relative motivated out of greed or misguided mercy. No wonder 25 states have rejected assisted suicide.
Id.

Contrary to Mr. McKay, I-1000 is a dangerous act that puts vulnerable people at risk. Vote NO on I-1000.

Margaret Dore
Law Offices of Margaret K. Dore
www.margaretdore.com
1001 4th Avenue, 44th Floor
Seattle, WA 98154
206 389 1754

Posted Fri, Sep 19, 8:55 a.m. Inappropriate

RE: Matt:: Have you ever taken a look at the racial makeup of Oregon? That's right: 93.45% white. Try again with your misleading statistics.

Posted Fri, Sep 19, 8:57 a.m. Inappropriate

RE: Matt,: The Director of right-wing Suicide Prevention International disapproves of Amsterdam? I'm shocked.

Washington's law is nothing like Amsterdam. I hear it won't even make prostitution legal.

Posted Fri, Sep 19, 9:03 a.m. Inappropriate

Margaret,: evil is always advanced by rhetoric that tugs at the heart strings.

We have become a people who make decisions not on facts, not on consequences, and not on clear thinking and reasoning but on emotions. Nothing could bring out this reality clearer than our current presidential election where the frenzy over Obama is an emotional reaction simply based on rhetoric rather than substance.

Another clear example is acceptance of abortion, the first push by so-called civilized people to legally end the life of one group of human beings. Proponents used heart-tugging rhetoric to gain empathy and sympathy for women who didn't want to be pregnant. The empathy and sympathy cards were played to the maximum using all sorts of fabrications and lies. That is how evil progresses.

The reality is with new technologies and advances in science and medicine, civilized people will have to make some choices they never have had to confront in history at the same time a sense of morality has bit the dust. Moral and ethical relativity allows otherwise intelligent people to argue for the advancement of evil while calling it something else-compassion, tolerance, understanding, empathy, enlightenment.

The bottom line is this. Do we value human life because each person has intrinsic dignity because they are human? Or do we place a value on human life where one's life is expendable if enough people agree it ought to be extinguished?
Lainie

Posted Fri, Sep 19, 9:04 a.m. Inappropriate

RE: Washington State residents: 1. This sounds reasonable to me. Suicide at the end of a long battle with cancer isn't the real cause of death - it just speeds it up.

2. Such terms are meant to be decided by juries, to protect doctors from fame-driven prosecutors.

3. Do you really think this is a problem? It's a simple law change if so, but I just don't see an epidemic of people asking for suicide, changing their mind, and having doctors hunt them down anyway.

Posted Fri, Sep 19, 10:42 a.m. Inappropriate

RE: Margaret,: //where the frenzy over Obama is an emotional reaction simply based on rhetoric rather than substance//

The other side is always emotional and irrational. I'm sure the republicans are ga-ga over Palin in a very rational and emotion-free way.

//Proponents used heart-tugging rhetoric to gain empathy and sympathy for women who didn't want to be pregnant.//

Yes, and the pro-lifers never show pictures of aborted fetuses to evoke emotion.

//The bottom line is this.//

Both of those are false choices. Here's the real bottom line: Should you have the right to tell me that I can't end my own suffering?

Posted Sun, Sep 21, 12:40 a.m. Inappropriate

Lainie and Piper,: Lainie
Now we encourage and expect people just to kill themselves.

Who's encouraging? People, this is happening anyway — we should recognize that fact and regulate it. Or would you really rather people continue to follow what Rush Limbaugh termed the Hunter S. Thomspon method?

We ought to spend more time and resources on pallative care, hospice and "dignity in living" campaigns.

No argument here.

Piper
Life is precious and should be respected on both the front end and back end.

I suppose it would be asking too much to suggest you read James Rachels's The End of Life, but "there is a deep difference between having a life and merely being alive." I won't take the argument here as far as he does, but will just say that sometimes respecting life means letting it go — and it should certainly mean allowing the person whose life is in question to make the decision for him- or herself.

Lainie
you can always move to Oregon in your last days.

Easier said than done for the terminally ill. Besides, the Oregon statute only applies to residents. Apparently you haven't read that which you oppose?

We do not have a right to ask healers to be killers. If people want to kill themselves they can, and have, in many different ways.

Well... we certainly have the right to ask. Under current law, it is illegal for them to comply. This law would give them the right to comply, but would certainly not force any doctor to prescribe this medication against his or her will. As for your second sentence, back to the Hunter S. Thompson method, I see.

(continues)

Posted Sun, Sep 21, 12:41 a.m. Inappropriate

RE: Lainie and Piper,: (continued)
Lainie
"Under I-1000, if a physician prescribes a lethal overdose, when that physician completes the death certificate, he or she is required - actually required - to list the underlying disease (say lung cancer) as the cause of death, even when the doctor knows full well that the patient died due to the suicidal overdose he or she prescribed. To my knowledge there's no other situation in medicine in which the death certificate is deliberately falsified - and in which this falsification is mandated by law."

It is true that I-1000 mandates that the underlying disease be listed as the cause of death, just as it is listed as the cause of death when high doses of morphine and lorazepam are given to irreversably unconscious patients to "ease breathing and anxiety." I'd like to know more about this: Washington death certificates, unless they've been changed in the last eight years, list the immediate cause of death first, and then three lines below headed "due to, or as a consequence of." The underlying disease or cause is to be listed last. "Withdrawal of support" is a qualifying immediate cause, but would never appear alone. Does I-1000 really mandate that the immediate cause of death not be listed and only the underlying cause? All it says is "The attending physician may sign the patient's death certificate which shall list the underlying terminal disease as the cause of death." I don't read that as mandating that the medication not be listed as the immediate cause.

It is also worth noting the passages in the initiative that refer to insurance. I believe it is common practice to deny life-insurance and other such benefits in the case of suicide — another reason why the "Hunter S. Thompson method" is no good. If I read I-1000 correctly, it would not allow this to happen:
"A qualified patient's act of ingesting medication to end his or her life in a humane and dignified manner shall not have an effect upon a life, health, or accident insurance or annuity policy." Or do opponents really just want to force people to live in pain until God decides they've had enough?

Posted Sun, Sep 21, 10:01 a.m. Inappropriate

RE: Lainie and Piper,: I like the bumper sticker that says Think Globally, Act Locally.

The message, to me, is to think long term - the last dominoe to fall needs to be taken into account along with the first. At the risk of being overly cryptic, the question, "Where will this end up?" is as important as anything.

Back in 1970, Washington voters legalized abortion through Ref. 20. The proponents promised in their campaign that abortion should be and would be an absolute last resort - like the phony rhetoric of today, it would be safe, legal, and rare.

We were told that the number of abortions overall would be small. Abortion as a form of birth control or for purposes of the sex selection of a child would never take place - society simply wouldn't allow it.

At least that's what we were told - what we were told was a lie. And I think abortion proponents knew that on the front end of the campaign.

From 1983 through 2006, per the Washington State Department of Health, there have been 648,683 induced abortions performed in this state. On average, well over one-third of all preganancies in the state were terminated by abortion. Peaking in the late 80's and early 90's where the abortion ratio ranged from 413 abortions per 1,000 live births (1987) to 380 (1991), we have seen a progressive decline to where the ration for 2006, 285, was the lowest during the period.

Still, that's almost 645 thousand lives snuffed out without them having a say in the matter.

These grizzley stats bely the duplicitous rhetoric of the 1970 pro-abortion campaigners.

On questions of life and death, I don't like where this culture is going. And looking down the road, I'm forced to ask, "What's next?" The pro-abortion crowd lied - maybe not all of them intentionally, but the numbers make it so nevertheless - so I wonder about the pro-suicide crowd.

Looking at I-1000 less as an end-game and more as a beginning, I get the ever loving crap scared out of me. Here we go down the cliched slippery slope all the while watching the equally cliched camel increasingly inch his way into the tent.

Just where in the name of God will this end? Or will it?

The argument, "Oh, no - that will never happen here," is proven more in the exception than the rule. The only way to prevent what I strongly believe to be a Netherlands-like endgame (or worse) is to draw a hard line here and now.

Everything we do has a macro as well as a micro impact. The pain of those suffering terminal illness is real, often very severe, and can extend to those in a family. I understand that because I've been there, done that.

But I also know that the global impact on our society and culture of making death a question of mere convenience or dollars and sense is, to me, more severe.

Every life has a purpose. Sometimes that purpose isn't fully realized until the end of that life. I believe each of us has a responsibility to live not just for self, but also outside of self for humanity. We don't understand the full impact we have on others because we don't know to what extent others are touched by the example we set.

It is upon that plane that a large part of this argument is not being waged. Everyone likes to talk about how we must set an environmental example or a stewardship example or whatever, but no one wants to talk about how we should or can set an example simply in the way we live and then die.

I don't hear many of the pro-death proponants addressing these issues. Can any of you guarantee that I-1000 will be the end of the argument? Or will it be, as I predict, simply the beginning with no end in sight?

As for me and mine, I'm drawing a hard line here and now.

The Piper

Posted Mon, Sep 22, 11:10 a.m. Inappropriate

RE: Lainie and Piper,: Word, Piper. We all know that doctors work with patients through the dying process and judgements are made. But as a matter of public policy, assisted suicide is overly dangerous. We fear this law for the same reason this state has always feared the state income tax; we can see where it ultimately leads despite the fact that it has some aspects that make sense.

And interestingly, if one is so inclined, the assisted suicide option is available at our neighboring state now and for the foreseeable future. If it's so important, why aren't Washingtonians taking advantage of our opportune geography? Because it's inconvenient perhaps? (and please don't throw out there the "it's hard to travel" thing. I thought the Death with Diginity program was based on a thoughtful plan by a reflective patient) Not everything in life should be convenient.
gym

Posted Mon, Sep 22, 1:01 p.m. Inappropriate

RE: Lainie and Piper,: (psst... as pointed out earlier, the Oregon law only applies to residents)

The slippery slope argument is a red herring. If you're afraid there will be a next step, and you don't want that next step, don't take the next step. That's the nice part about living in a democracy - we can vote on what steps we want to take.

Posted Mon, Sep 22, 11:49 p.m. Inappropriate

RE: Lainie and Piper,: But I also know that the global impact on our society and culture of making death a question of mere convenience or dollars and sense is, to me, more severe.

You devalue what these people are going through by characterizing what they want a matter of "mere convenience." And "dollars and cents" (I believe that's what you meant) can be very important to someone who is depending on life insurance to replace their loved one's income.

Every life has a purpose. Sometimes that purpose isn't fully realized until the end of that life. I believe each of us has a responsibility to live not just for self, but also outside of self for humanity. We don't understand the full impact we have on others because we don't know to what extent others are touched by the example we set.

Fair point, but shouldn't it be up to the individual himself whether he wants to live "just for self" or "outside of self for humanity"? Should it really be up to you to determine whether a prospective user of this law has fully realized his purpose at the time he decides to take the medication, or whether he should wait for the disease to take its "natural" course? (And who really goes through the "natural" course of a disease anymore except those who refuse all medical care?)

It is upon that plane that a large part of this argument is not being waged. Everyone likes to talk about how we must set an environmental example or a stewardship example or whatever, but no one wants to talk about how we should or can set an example simply in the way we live and then die.

I'm perfectly willing to talk about that, as are, I assume, most other supporters of I-1000.

Posted Wed, Sep 24, 8:05 a.m. Inappropriate

RE: Lainie and Piper,: quite aware of the residency rule. But it's not that difficult to gain residency. Again, if you really want assisted suicide to enter your life, you can do it. It just takes effort.

gym

Posted Wed, Sep 24, 11:23 a.m. Inappropriate

RE: Lainie and Piper,: "Factors demonstrating Oregon residency include but are not limited to:
(1) Possession of an Oregon driver license;
(2) Registration to vote in Oregon;
(3) Evidence that the person owns or leases property in Oregon; or
(4) Filing of an Oregon tax return for the most recent tax year."

So, theoretically, yes, but do you honestly see Oregon opening things up for people to move there for the sole purpose of taking advantage of their death with dignity law?

Posted Wed, Sep 24, 11:23 a.m. Inappropriate

RE: Lainie and Piper,: Sure, if you know a year in advance how painful your end-stage cancer will be. Your argument is empty.

Login or register to add your voice to the conversation.

Join Crosscut now!
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Follow Us »