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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

October 7, 2008 at 4:06 PM

Initiative 1000: death with dignity

Say goodbye to civil liberties

No pun intended, but the progressives have it dead wrong when it comes to Initiative 1000 [“Death with dignity: Approve I-1000,” Times, editorial, Oct. 5].

Much like the Oregon law, which has been on the books for 10 years, the Washington law would, in effect, enable the insurance companies to wipe out civil liberties.

I have a disabled son. I don’t want someone telling me that caring for him has become too costly, but that they will gladly pay for the pill to end his life “compassionately.” This is a civil-rights issue. This is a disability-rights issue.

This is not a slippery slope. This is a blind leap over a precipice of no return.

Get informed, be shocked. Then get angry and vote “no” on I-1000.

— Mary Lund, Bothell

Suicide is unacceptable

The Times concludes that, “On the grounds of compassion for the suffering, and recognition of the individual as a moral agent,” we should vote for I-1000. Vote against I-1000 for the same reasons.

Compassion means suffering (passion) with (com) another and seeing the person through to the end — not hastening it. This is much more difficult than turning away while the person injects himself or herself and commits suicide.

Yes, the individual is a moral agent. Choices one makes have moral implications — for everyone. To legalize physician-assisted suicide, even for a few, is to begin to reshape it as a morally acceptable option for the many. The attempt to draw parameters around “acceptable” suicide is arbitrary and, thus, subject to change.

Why is physical suffering given greater weight than emotional suffering? Why is suicide only OK for someone who might die in six months? Why is suicide a tragedy when it falls outside these narrowly defined parameters but compassionate when inside them? Legalizing physician-assisted suicide opens it for discussion and implies its legitimacy.

Eventually, the discussion will be about broadening those arbitrary, narrow, “safe” parameters.

— Brian Cummings, Port Orchard

Sheen’s ad makes false claims

I much appreciate the effort The Times is expending to examine the claims made by candidates and groups supporting and opposing ballot issues in this election season.

My request is that you look at the claims being made by the two sides of the I-1000 (death with dignity) issue — in particular, the radio and TV ads by actor Martin Sheen.

I loved Sheen in “The West Wing.” He is not, however, well-cast in the role of death-with-dignity opponent. Sheen claims that “the 9,000 doctors” of the Washington State Medical Association oppose I-1000. In fact, that decision was made by the WSMA House of Delegates and executive board. Rank-and-file members of the WSMA were never allowed to vote on it.

Many physicians support the initiative. A quick check of the records in Olympia will reveal that more money from doctors has been donated to groups favoring I-1000 than those opposed to it.

Additionally, Sheen would have us believe that patients could opt for a lethal dose of medication even if they were suffering only from depression. This is not true. At least two doctors must certify that a patient is making an informed decision and is mentally competent.

One thing I can agree with the actor on is that patients should be treated with compassion. And what could be more compassionate than allowing someone to make an exit on their own terms, before physical conditions render the individual unrecognizable to his family?

Sheen should keep up the good work [acting], where his dialogue more often has the ring of truth.

— Chris Fruitrich, West Seattle

Safeguards flawed in I-1000

I have strong opinions against the proposed Death with Dignity Act, I-1000. The safeguards are flawed.

The two objective witnesses can hardly be called objective if one witness may also be an heir, a beneficiary of the terminally-ill patient’s estate. I-1000 leaves room for great anguish of the dying, as well as distrust and possible calamity within families in the moral and legal arenas.

Is anyone talking to the survivors of patients who chose to die under Oregon’s Assisted Suicide law? Surely there must be trauma. Are there support groups to help counsel the families in this decision prior and following? Have there been lawsuits filed because of wrongdoing? Has there been any follow-up?

There must be safeguards in place and support for the dying, as well as for those who survive the death of a loved one before even considering I-1000.

— Mary Cockerham, Lakewood

Thoughtful support

Thank you for your thoughtful, carefully considered support of I-1000.

The Times appropriately emphasizes the fundamental right of the individual to choose with dignity at the close of the life.

— John Edwards, Seattle

I-1000 doesn’t guarantee choice to die

I am against I-1000, due to the lack of safeguards.

The Times acknowledges that I-1000 requires “no witnesses” at the time of death. Without required witnesses, the opportunity is created for an heir or stressed-out caregiver to administer the lethal dose to Dad without his consent. Even if he struggled violently, who would know? With no required witnesses, I-1000 creates the perfect alibi.

Family members, of course, do this kind of thing all the time. The Times ran “Des Moines murder for hire brings 25-year prison terms” [Local News, Oct. 4], about a mother and son who hired a hit man to off her husband. Why should we pass a statute that rewards this type of behavior with a “get out of jail free card”?

Sadly, people commit suicide now. Let’s help ensure that it’s their choice.

— Margaret Dore, Seattle

Comments | More in Election, Health care, Politics

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