Friday, October 10, 2008
A few months ago, Pallimed featured an International Review of Hastened Death reports in the media. Now the issue of legalizing intentional medical hastening of death (aka Physician-Assisted Suicide or Physician-Assisted Death depending on one's point of view) will be voted on by the citizens of Washington State in November. Surprisingly this has made little waves in the news on the national level or in the medical blogs, but the political blogs and Washington State Media are highlighting this issue.
The proposal is titled Initiative 1000 (I-1000) - The Washington Death With Dignity Act. Some excellent neutral detailed information can be found at Ballotpedia (who knew it existed?). It is being sponsored by a former Governor of Washington Booth Gardner after his experience with his father dying from Parkinson's disease. A poll in early August found 51 % in favor, with 26% opposed and the rest undecided.
This is not the first time Washington has voted on this issue. In 1991 the proposal was defeated 54-46%. The initiative is based on similar language from the Oregon Death with Dignity Act passed in 1994 and enacted in 1997 after many legal challenges including the Supreme Court.
Both sides claim to have multiple different groups behind them, but when I looked on many of the websites of the organizations and could not find ANY mention of the I-1000 initiative. So when you see the Washington State Hospice and Palliative Care Organziztion listed as opposing I-1000, they don't have any mention on the WSHPCO website. Same thing goes for the ACLU supporting I-1000. Nothin' on the ACLU site either.
National Death with Dignity Center
Compassion & Choices
Coalition Against Assisted Suicide
Not Dead Yet
Washington State Medical Association
Here are the main websites for supporting (Yes on I-1000) and opposing (No Assisted Suicide) the measure.
Dethmama links to some other discussions on the topic on her blog.
In some upcoming posts I will spend some time dissecting some of the op-ed pieces as it relates to care of terminally ill patients, because the essence of the argument for or against physician-assisted suicide has to do with caring for and being a terminally ill person. Since palliative medicine professionals have zillions of experiences with dying people you may be asked about your opinion about the Washington State Initiative so it may be helpful to look through some of the links to become more knowlegable about the requirements, background and reasons for support and opposition of this particular measure.
If you comment on this post, please keep it constructive and avoid any ad hominem attacks.
(My Standard Disclaimer: Pallimed, Dr. Sinclair and his current and former employers and states do not endorse or practice euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, but do encourage the open, non-judgmental discussion of these topics for educational and ethical discourse about this controversial area of medicine.)