Washington Begins Assisted Suicide Debate as Former Governor Files Papers

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 9, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Washington Begins Assisted Suicide Debate as Former Governor Files Papers Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
January 9,

Olympia, WA (LifeNews.com) — As expected, former Washington Gov. Booth Gardner paved the way for an intense statewide debate over assisted suicide as he filed papers to make it the second state after Oregon to legalize the grisly practice. Pro-life groups will likely rally along with disability advocates and the medical community in opposing the bill.

Under the measure, Washington residents who have less than six months to live would be able to ask a doctor for a prescription for lethal drugs to kill themselves.

Now that Booth has filed the paperwork with the state, his campaign committee must gather 225,000 signatures by July 3 from state residents to qualify the measure for the November 2008 ballot.

This isn’t the first time euthanasia backers have tried to get the state to authorize assisted suicide. In 1991, 54 percent of state voters rejected Initiative 119, which, unlike this new measure, allowed doctors to administer the drugs.

However, Booth’s committee, "It’s My Choice" has already gathered more than $319,000 in donations for this effort.

"This is something we should do. We should have done it a long time ago," Gardner said, according to the Seattle Times. "It’s the right thing to do – it’s the Christian thing to do."

Sister Sharon Park, director of the Washington State Catholic Conference, said her group will strongly oppose the measure.

"Certainly, we hold that life is a gift from God and it’s sacred and we’re to hold it as a gift," she told the Times. "That certainly would be why we would not be supportive of assisted suicide."

Duane French, who heads the group "Coalition Against Assisted Suicide," said the disabled would play a prominent role in opposing the measure. He says he’s concerned that the initiative makes no mention of the term, "suicide."

That’s because backers of the proposal can’t word it in a way that violates current law prohibiting state residents from encouraging someone to commit suicide.

A battle over the language in the initiative could wind up in court before it ever makes the ballot.

Gardner, a Democrat, was Washington’s governor from 1985 to 1993, and his measure would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to kill terminally ill patients. Two physicians would have to agree that the patient had fewer than six months to live and was mentally capable of making the decision.

Ironically, just months ago Gardner underwent deep brain surgery for Parkinson’s Disease, which could possibly be used to help incapacitated patients like Terri Schiavo.

Bioethics watchdog Wesley J. Smith says the former governor is ignoring the dangers and problems associated with allowing doctors to have a role in killing their patients.

"The potential for–and abuses that are actually happening–from legalized assisted suicide are well documented," Smith says.

"But advocates like Gardner willfully ignore that part of the story. Bluntly stated, they want what they want for themselves and don’t care who gets hurt," he adds.

Last year, pro-life advocates were successful in stopping assisted suicide in California, Hawaii, and Vermont. They worried Washington would join Oregon, where assisted suicides are at an all time high.