Washington Voters Should Oppose Initiative 1000, Say No to Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 2, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Washington Voters Should Oppose Initiative 1000, Say No to Assisted Suicide

by Steven Ertelt
November 2, 2008

LifeNews.com Note: Steven Ertelt is the editor of LifeNews.com.

When voters in Washington state head to the polls on Tuesday, they will consider Initiative 1000, which would make the state the second in the nation to legalize the grisly practice of assisted suicide. Washington residents should reject assisted suicide to a solution to helping elderly, terminally ill and other patients.

In the minds of most Americans, assisted suicide brings to mind Doctor Kevorkian, the iconoclastic crusader who appeared more interested in publicity than putting the interests of patients first.

While a Jack Kevorkian may not come to Washington to flout the current laws, making the practice legal doesn’t help patients.

For many, assisted suicide involves the same principles as the abortion debate — where death becomes a handy solution when government or society seeks quick fix solution to a problem.

Just as abortion doesn’t solve the problems of providing medial care, education assistance, financial aid or comfort and support for pregnant women who believe they have no other option when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, assisted suicide is no legitimate option for patients.

Merely legalizing assisted suicide doesn’t provide patients with better medical care or health insurance, it doesn’t alleviate the pain and suffering that illnesses can bring for patients who don’t want to take their life, and it doesn’t yield cures, provide better hospice support or strengthen the doctor-patient relationship.

It certainly doesn’t alleviate the concerns of a throw-away society that increasingly views the elderly, the disabled, and the infirm as burdens to society rather than blessings.

The old saying that those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it applies to the debate over I-1000. All Washington voters need to do to determine if the supposed safeguards in the ballot proposal will actually work is look at the problems associated with the state of Oregon.

Just weeks ago, researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University released the results of a study showing one-fourth of the people killed in assisted suicides in Oregon were depressed but received lethal cocktails anyway.

Of the patients involved, 26 percent were independently diagnosed with depression. they weren’t treated — giving credence to the notion that assisted suicide is a cure looking for a problem.

Who knows how much pressure was applied on those patients by family members, doctors, medical personnel, or how much pressure they put on themselves to take their own life rather than seek medical and mental health assistance. The "easy" solution of taking one’s life seems like a good idea to those who are worried about being a burden to family or patients who are concerned about how to pay medical bills. Assisted suicide only adds to that pressure.

Assisted suicide puts the doctor-patient relationship in an improper light — and it’s no wonder that state medical associations across the nation have opposed it in other states where voters considered the idea.

The role of doctors and medical staff as healers is a longstanding one. Patients already face concerns in the form of medical personnel who already take it upon themselves to euthanize or hasten the death of patients without opening the door to legitimatize their actions by allowing assisted suicide.

The slippery slope of assisted suicide to euthanasia is no longer a question as European nations who were supposed to close the door to doctors actively killing patients have opened it wide.

Also, the case of Barbara Wagner is becoming less and less far-fetched.

Washington voters need to know how she was denied treatment and told that insurance would pay for an assisted suicide but not medication that could help her. As more and more economic pressures are placed on the medical system, the pressure to take patients’ lives as opposed to the cost and effort of medicating them will only increase. Again, assisted suicide exacerbates that problem.

Ultimately, it’s no surprise that doctors groups, disability rights groups, religious organizations, and pro-life organizations have banded together in other states to stop assisted suicide. They all have valid points to make about the problems associated with the practice and states ranging from Michigan and Maine to Hawaii and California have rejected assisted suicide because they understand the pitfalls.

Washington voters, please don’t make the same mistake. Reject the out-of-state money telling you to vote for I-1000 and help your fellow Americans who worry that your vote will force assisted suicide on the rest of us if the pro-suicide movement snowballs.

Vote no on I-1000.

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