Franklin James Cook

Washington to Implement Assisted-Suicide Law on Mar. 4

In Policy on November 6, 2008 at 7:08 pm

ORIGINAL REPORT — The Seattle Times reports that preparations are under way to implement a Washington law, approved by the state’s voters in Tuesday’s election, that allow doctors to prescribe lethal prescriptions to terminally ill patient. It is set to take effect March 4, and “any legal challenge could be difficult since the Washington law mirrors Oregon’s law, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Under the new Washington law, any patient requesting fatal medication must be at least 18, declared competent and a resident of Washington state. he patient would have to make two oral requests, 15 days apart, and submit a written request witnessed by two people. One of the witnesses must not be a relative, heir, attending doctor, or connected with a health facility where the requester lives. Two doctors also would have to certify that the patient has a terminal condition and six months or less to live.

USA Today’s online feature “Faith and Reason” is host of a place for readers to comment on the question “Is ‘Death with Dignity’ simply suicide?”

Here a quote from a reader on one side of the argument:

This is not suicide. It is not an irrational choice between life and death. It is a very rational choice between one kind of death (unmitigated suffering) and another kind of death (personal autonomy and dignity).

And here is a thought from a reader who thinks differently:

What we should really call “death with dignity” is “assisted suicide.” Suicide is choosing the time, and the means of ending one’s own life, and that sounds a lot like “death with dignity” … Once we have crossed the line of putting people out of there misery as a way to deal suffering and it becomes universally acceptable, then we will start looking at the mentally ill, birth defects, the homeless, ugly people, etc.

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  1. During nearly every public awareness/suicide prevention training session I present, I am asked about assisted suicide. It’s interesting to me that people will take public stands on this issue, which impacts relatively few people, and ignore the tens of thousands who die each year from suicide. So many suicide deaths could be prevented if people put their energy into insisting on better, more accessible care for people with the diagnosable and treatable conditions that often precede suicide.

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