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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

October 6, 2008 at 3:05 PM

Initiative 1000 — death with dignity/assisted suicide

Choice to die not assured

The Times editorial about I-1000 states that 49 patients in Oregon used the Oregon assisted-suicide law to take their lives last year [“Death with dignity: approve I-1000,” Times, editorial, Oct. 5]. The editorial further states that It further states that some of the 49 patients took their lives “because of pain, but most because they were losing their autonomy, their dignity and their engagement with life.”

But Oregon’s law, like I-1000, has no required witness at the death. For this reason, no one — including Oregon or Tthe Times editorial board — knows why these 49 patients took their lives or whether someone other than the patients took their lives for them. The Times is engaged in speculation.

Supporters of I-1000 claim that it allows an individual to die with dignity and that it supports patient autonomy. The real choice to “die,” however, is not assured by I-1000. This is again because I-1000 has no requirement that there be a witness at death. Without a required witness at death, a stressed-out caregiver or heir could administer the lethal dose without the patient’s consent. This is not personal autonomy for the patient.

I-1000 is a flawed legislation that puts vulnerable people at risk.

Vote “No” on I-1000.

— Michael A. Patterson, Seattle

Times kudos

The Times’ endorsement of Initiative 1000 gladdens my heart. As a retired nurse who worked primarily with cancer patients, I have given priority over the past 20 years to promoting this option, as well as educating others about for making choices about end-of-life decisions by means of advance directives.

The Times’ coverage of this issue has been superb. The two-part series was professionally researched and clearly written. The editorials you have published have been fair and convincing.

If this law passes, I will be content at age 82 to know I have given my time, energy and money to a successful and compassionate advance for humanity.

— Mary Watson, Gig Harbor

Reject I-1000

The primary goal of government is to protect the lives of its citizens. It shouldn’t be involved in dispensing death to those citizens. The primary goal of a physician is to cure his patient when possible, comfort always, kill never. I-1000 undermines these fundamental goals.

All patients are vulnerable as they approach the end of life. A patient may worry about loss of autonomy and becoming a burden to loved ones. The appropriate response from the medical community is reassurance, care, compassion and practical assistance — not facilitation of suicide. I-1000 would radically change the role of the physician from an advocate of healing to an accomplice in death.

Our profession has renounced medical killing. Assisted suicide has been rejected by the Washington State Medical Association and 48 other state medical associations in 48 other states. The Oregon State Medical Association supported a repeal of Oregon’s assisted-suicide law.

Initiative 1000 is poorly thought out and dangerous. We urge Washington voters to vote “no.”

— Richard Wonderly, M.D., and James Gasparich, M.D., Seattle

I-1000 shows compassion for terminally ill

You are so right — requesting life-ending medication is “the right of the terminally ill to decide for themselves.”

If only we could all just die in our sleep, we wouldn’t have to be faced with end-of-life decisions. How wonderful that would be. But, unfortunately, that’s not the case for every person.

Those who must endure a death sentence because of a terminal illness deserve the compassion Initiative 1000 would allow.

Thank you for your reasoned approach to this issue.

— Maureen Galbreath, Edmonds

Initiative modeled after safe Oregon law

I can speak from personal experience about Initiative I-1000.

My mom used Oregon’s Death with Dignity law to hasten her death. When she had two weeks left to live, my mom was unable to do anything she liked. Hospice workers did a great job trying to keep my mom pain-free, but the truth is that at that point she was miserable.

My mom said her goodbyes, and with my stepdad and me by her side, took the lethal medication and passed away peacefully. My family is very grateful for the Oregon Death with Dignity law that allowed my mom a dignified death on her own terms.

Washington’s I-1000 is modeled after onthe Oregon law with the same safeguards to make sure that no one will ever be forced to end their lifeinto this. The past decade of the Oregon law has shown that this is a safe law, used very sparingly, without one single case of misuse.

I greatly respect those who would never use this option because of personal or religious beliefs. This is a very personal choice. But please allow all of us to make our own decisions if we are ever faced with a terminal diagnosis. I urge you to vote “yes” on I-1000.

— Jonathon Turlove, Olympia

Comments | More in Election, Health care, Politics

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