Sunday, March 01, 2009


Washington State is the next state to offer lethal medication to terminally ill patients with less than six months to live. A triumph for those who believe in the right to clinically controlled suicide.

The law takes effect Thursday, but some doctors are conflicted or not willing to write the life-ending prescriptions; in addition, many doctors are hesitant to talk publicly about where they stand on the issue.

There has been a continual awareness campaign here in the Hudson Valley by friends of mine. William See and the rest of the Hudson Valley Chapter of "Death With Dignity" have championed this delicate subject for over a decade.

Once the issue is studied a little closer, the scary image of rampant death squads running through nursing homes disappears and the unbearable pain & suffering of the individual becomes the focus of each case.

Compassion & Choices, lead by Dr. Thomas Preston, was the strongest support group of the legislation and they are of course thrilled that this option for terminal patients is now available.

I jumped around the Internet and found that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that it was up to states to regulate medical practice, including assisted suicide, and Washington's Initiative 1000 was passed by nearly 60 percent of state voters in November.

Washington follows Oregon and Montana in allowing this procedure. Under the Oregon and Washington laws, physicians and pharmacists are not required to write or fill lethal prescriptions if they are opposed to the law.

Just like our local Yellow Pages here in the Hudson Valley, Compassion & Choices of Washington is compiling a directory of physicians who aren't opting out of the law, as well as pharmacies willing to fill the prescriptions. Perfect for that last desire of convenient service.

I didn't know that already, since the measure passed and was enacted, more than 340 people [mostly ailing with cancer] have used this avenue to end their lives at their own hands. [Including this patient to the right]

You know the odds are against the newly merged Benedictine/Kingston Hospital jumping on the support wagon to introduce this option to New Yorkers. As I noted in the last posting, the lobbyists who represent the insurance and pharma industries would object to any legislation that would decrease their steady stream of income. Never mind the philosophical opposition locally.

Would you want the option of Physician Assisted Suicide in New York State?


Anonymous said...

"Rampant death squads"? An example of ridiculing an opposing view point rather then discussing it in a reasonable manner.

I believe that people who have the capacity to make such decisions should be allowed death with dignity to avoid pain and suffering at the end of their lives.

My concern with the law is more subtle then "rampant death squads". I worry that as the trend continues, the right to death with dignity is going to morph into a feeling on the parts of the ill to having a responsibility to die, to avoid becoming a burden. I worry that those who are not at the end of their lives, but rather are feeling useless and burdensome are going feel they need to get out of the way.

I don't know that my concerns can be quelled by adjusting the legislation that allows doctor assisted suicide. I might feel better if while these laws are being passed, I did not have a sinking feeling about the loss of regard for life in general. However, with discussions by academics of the notion of "personhood", a slow return of some of the notions of eugenics and a number of other movements that display a lack of regard for life, I can't help but be concerned.

Anonymous said...

How would you feel if the day after you put someone to death they found a cure?

Anonymous said...

6:18...That's it? That's all you have as a deterrent to the right to chose to end it? You're to the point where the morphine is in such a dose that you're slipping away from consciousness. You've got 3 months of excruciating pain to look forward to, and you come back with this empty question?

I think each case is strictly up to the patient and their loved ones. Don't give us this dribble.

Anonymous said...

6:18 - A cure doesn't happen in a takes years of research (much of which was quashed under the Bush Administration) and patient studies. If your loved one was dying and a cure was that close to being approved by the FDA (a very political process), you'd probably know about it. Whether it's ALS, cancer, MS...whatever, there is still a lot of research to be done to "cure" a lengthy and terminal illness. If a patient has less than six months to live, it's not likely that the cure will reverse someone whose disease has progressed to that point.