Friday, June 27, 2008

Death with Dignity in Washington

There's something about people who write editorials for the Seattle PI. It's starting to seem like, every position I strongly advocate for, the editorial writers, guest or staff, find a way to equate my side to Nazism. Last time it was long-time PI columnist Joel Connelly over a local transportation issue. (Here's my letter to the editor.) Now, it's about the Death with Dignity initiative that may be on the ball0t for Seattle voters this fall.

Hubert G. Locke, a retired professor and former dean of the Daniel J. Evans Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington has a guest editorial in today's paper. He admits that he is torn on whether to support the initiative and lays out a lot of reasoned arguments to support the initiative and a lot of emotional arguments to not support it. Here's an excerpt:

"Having one's druthers is a good part of the argument for the Death with Dignity Initiative. The wish to be in control drives much of what we do throughout our lives; it is not surprising such a wish should loom large when we contemplate our end. Living wills and 'do not resuscitate' directives are steps many already take to affect some say in how their demise will be handled. Is not the choice offered by the Death with Dignity Initiative simply one more option for those who might wish to bypass the mental and physical agony that too often accompanies dying? It's hard to argue with such a position. But it's equally hard to argue with those who observe that our lives were not ours to create and neither should they be ours to end."

I disagree with him here. American law argues for separation of church and state. There is no legal grounds on which to say there has to be a morally or ethically natural end to life. The initiative simply allows people who have six months or fewer to live, as verified by two separate doctors, to control the circumstances of their death. It allows for an honest, and with luck, pain-free death.

But then here's where Locke goes a little crazy. He accuses supporters of the initiative of taking society onto a slippery slope. Here's what he writes:

"What, for example, is to prevent a society that authorizes or allows a practice from taking the further step of encouraging it and ultimately of insisting on it? We are not that far removed from the history of the German Third Reich in which the government of an otherwise decent, modern, highly civilized nation launched a program to rid its society of people who were mentally and physically disabled. Such people, it was argued, live lives that are of no value and are a drain on the society that must care for them."

Let's forget that he called the German Third Reich "decent, modern, highly civilized" outside of exterminating disabled people ... because addressing that will make my head explode. ... Those of us who advocate for Death with Dignity are trying to help people who have six months or less time than that to live, and are suffering greatly, take control of the circumstances of their death. How dare he insinuate that we are pushing forward on a plan that will eventually lead to willful extermination of disabled people. So, I guess according to the Seattle PI, I'm a Nazi, two times over, because I support expanding mass transit and because I support Death with Dignity. Who knew the Nazis were so diversified in their belief system? Argh!

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