Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The case for assisted dying

leave a comment »

The case is quite strong, it seems to me, at least as articulated by Raymond Tallis in the New Humanist:

The case for a law to legalise the choice of physician-assisted dying for mentally competent people with terminal illness, who have expressed a settled wish to die, is very easily stated. Unbearable suffering, prolonged by medical care, and inflicted on a dying patient against their will, is an unequivocal evil. What’s more, the right to have your choices supported by others, to determine your own best interest, when you are of sound mind, is sovereign. And this is accepted by a steady 80-plus per cent of the UK population in successive surveys.

Even so, after decades of campaigning, the law has yet to change. How can this be? The answer is simple: there has been a highly organised opposition by individuals and groups, largely with strong religious beliefs that forbid assistance to die. Such groups know that religious absolutism cuts little ice in a predominantly secular society, where many will point out that the doctrine of the sanctity of life has been historically negotiable, with clerics supporting “just” wars that kill the innocent, and in some cases the death sentence for murder, apostasy, blasphemy or being gay. (Some religions, it seems, are more at ease with killing healthy people who want to live than with helping terminally ill people to realise their wish to be released from suffering.) The role of religion is particularly evident in the case of the medical profession, where bodies such as Care Not Killing and the Christian Medical Fellowship are punching above their numerical weight. . .

Continue reading.

The NY Times ran an article by Katie Hafner recently on how benign the laws in Washington and Oregon that allowing a terminally ill patient to obtain a prescription to end his or her own life when they wish. It turns out that often the prescription is not used, but having the choice is comforting and allows more peace of mind. That article is worth reading as well and begins:

SEATTLE — Dr. Richard Wesley has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the incurable disease that lays waste to muscles while leaving the mind intact. He lives with the knowledge that an untimely death is chasing him down, but takes solace in knowing that he can decide exactly when, where and how he will die.

Under Washington State’s Death With Dignity Act, his physician has given him a prescription for a lethal dose of barbiturates. He would prefer to die naturally, but if dying becomes protracted and difficult, he plans to take the drugs and die peacefully within minutes.

“It’s like the definition of pornography,” Dr. Wesley, 67, said at his home here in Seattle, with Mount Rainier in the distance. “I’ll know it’s time to go when I see it.”

Washington followed Oregon in allowing terminally ill patients to get a prescription for drugs that will hasten death. Critics of such laws feared that poor people would be pressured to kill themselves because they or their families could not afford end-of-life care. But the demographics of patients who have gotten the prescriptions are surprisingly different than expected, according to data collected by Oregon and Washington through 2011.

Dr. Wesley is emblematic of those who have taken advantage of the law. They are overwhelmingly white, well educated and financially comfortable. And they are making the choice not because they are in pain but because they want to have the same control over their deaths that they have had over their lives.

While preparing advance medical directives and choosing hospice and palliative care over aggressive treatment have become mainstream options, physician-assisted dying remains taboo for many people. Voters in Massachusetts will consider a ballot initiative in November on a law nearly identical to those in the Pacific Northwest, but high-profile legalization efforts have failed in California, Hawaii and Maine.

Oregon put its Death With Dignity Act in place in 1997, and Washington’s law went into effect in 2009. Some officials worried that thousands of people would migrate to both states for the drugs.

“There was a lot of fear that the elderly would be lined up in their R.V.’s at the Oregon border,” said Barbara Glidewell, an assistant professor at Oregon Health and Science University.

That has not happened, although . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 August 2012 at 10:23 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.