Monday, October 6, 2008

Initiave 1000—Physician Assisted Suicide

Washington state has an initiative on the ballot this fall that would make physician assisted suicide legal. If it passes, we would become the second state, after Oregon, to approve such a measure.

Here are some details:
Patients would be given a lethal dose of medicine, which they would take on their own.
To qualify, the would have to be deemed terminal, death coming within six months, by two separate physicians.
They would have to be deemed mentally competent by two physicians.
The request must be voluntary, as checked by two physicians.
There's a 15-day waiting period between the first oral request and a written request.
There is a 48-hour waiting period between the written request and the writing of the prescription.
The patient is encouraged to discuss the decision with family (not required because of confidentiality laws).
The patient may change their mind at any time.

I support the initiative because it gives patients autonomy over the manner in which they die. It offers compassion to those who are dying anyway, many of whom are dying with pain and suffering. I think society has a strong interest in preserving life, but sometimes individual liberty must win out over that maxim. Also, some in the medical profession would tell you that PAS already occurs but under the radar. Legalizing it will lend an openness to the discussion.

Apart from my opinions, I'd also like to share some of the ads that pro and con sides are playing. I find both sides pretty disgusting. The pro side is predictably manipulating the emotions of people who have been through terrible, gut-wrenching deaths that could have been eased with the passage of a law like this. The con side is using actor Martin Sheen, who has nothing to do with Washington state and played the president on TV. Sigh.

Here's a link to the initiative (it will be a pdf).

Here are the ads.

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