Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Massachusetts Ballot Question 2 (Assisted Suicide): Whose Choice?

The following letter was written by Seattle attorney, Margaret Dore concerning the experience that one of her clients had with assisted suicide in Washington State.
Margaret Dore

Ballot Question 2: Whose Choice?

By Margaret Dore, October 1, 2012

I am an attorney in Washington State, where assisted suicide is legal. Our law was passed by a ballot initiative in November 2008 and went into effect in March 2009. Our law is similar to Ballot Question 2. 

In Washington State, my former clients own two adult family homes (small elder care facilities). Four days after the election, the adult child of one of their residents asked about getting pills for the purpose of causing his father's death. It wasn't the older gentleman asking for his "right to die."[1]

At that time, our law had not yet gone into effect; the man died before it did. But if our law had been in effect, whose choice would it have been? The choice of his son, or the choice of the older gentleman?

In Washington state, we have already had suggestions to expand our law to direct euthanasia for non-terminal people.[2]. More disturbing, there was this discussion in the Seattle Times suggesting euthanasia for people unable to afford care, which would be on an involuntary basis for those persons who want to live.  Columnist Jerry Large stated:
"After Monday's column, some readers were unsympathetic [to people unable to afford care], a few suggested that if you couldn't save enough money to see you through your old age, you shouldn't expect society to bail you out. At least a couple mentioned euthanasia as a solution."[3]
I never saw anything like this prior to our law's being passed in 2008. Be careful what you vote for.

[1]  Letter from Juan Carlos to the Montana Board of Medical Examiners, posted July 1, 2012, at http://www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/2012/07/dear-montana-board-of-medical-examiners.html
[2]  See e.g., Brian Faller, "Perhaps it's time to expand Washington's Death with Dignity Act," The Olympian, November 16, 2011, available at http://www.theolympian.com/2011/11/16/1878667/perhaps-its-time-to-expand-washingtons.html
[3]  Jerry Large, "Planning for old age at a premium," The Seattle Times, March 8, 2012 at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/text/2017693023.html 

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