Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Anatomy of a campaign: Washington’s Initiative 1000

Kathie Durbin from the Columbian Newspaper in Washington state has written a very interesting article about the Washington state Initiative 1000 campaign to legalize assisted suicide in that state.

You should note several important comments:
1. The Washington Death With Dignity campaign is organized and has a united effort with the national campaign run by the Compassion and Choices lobby group centred in Oregon.
2. The I-1000 Initiative is intended to legalize assisted suicide for the terminally ill. The long-term plan is to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide for people who are not terminally ill.
3. The Washington Death With Dignity campaign is raising money from sources throughout the United States.
4. The Washington Death With Dignity campaign expects the Catholic Church to be the primary group to oppose the campaign.

1. People from across the United States who oppose assisted suicide need to join a unified effort to defeat Initiative 1000 by supporting the Washington Coalition Against Assisted Suicide.
2. Recognize that the assisted suicide information out of Oregon has been controlled by the Compassion and Choices lobby group who are responsible for facilitating 73% of the assisted suicide deaths in that State. The government reports are based on the information provided by the physician who prescribed the death and their is no third party follow up to assure their accuracy.

In other words, we do not know what is actually going on in Oregon.
For more information: http://alexschadenberg.blogspot.com/2008/05/physician-assisted-suicide-pas-in.html
3. People and groups from across the United States who recognize that assisted suicide directly threatens the lives of the most vulnerable in society need to send money to the Washington Coalition Against Assisted Suicide - P.O. Box 11974, Olympia WA 98508 Website: http://noassistedsuicide.com/
4. The Washington Coalition Against Assisted Suicide is supported by the Washington State Medical Association, Nurses, Democrat Senator Margarita Prentice (and others), Disability Rights Groups including NOT DEAD YET and the State Independent Living Council, minority groups, pro-life groups, Church groups, and many others. The issue of assisted suicide cuts through political lines because it is a direct threat to the lives of vulnerable people.

Do not expect the Catholic Church will drop millions of dollars on a media campaign. The money will need to come from grassroots supporters. The Death With Dignity propaganda about the Catholic Church is mean't to lull you into not taking action.

I have abridged her article. The complete article can be found at: http://www.columbian.com:80/news/localNews/2008/07/07132008_Anatomy-of-a-campaign-Washingtons-Initiative-1000.cfm

In February 2006, a month after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Oregon Death With Dignity Act, right-to-die activists from Seattle and Portland met at an east Vancouver hotel to lay the groundwork for a Washington initiative modeled on the Oregon law.

“Everybody agreed that we needed our friends and colleagues from Oregon,” said Dr. Tom Preston, the retired Seattle cardiologist who organized the meeting. Preston founded Washington Compassion in Dying in 1993, two years after the first Washington initiative went down in defeat.

“In our minds, Washington was the logical next state,” said Peg Sandeen, the center’s executive director. “People in Washington could see that no one was rushing to Oregon to die.”

The states are similar demographically. Both have large numbers of independent voters. “And there is the same sort of distaste for government intervention in health care decisions” in both states, she said.

Preston and other members of Compassion in Dying had helped the Oregon group wage its political campaign. Now it was payback time. “They wanted our political strategy and our financial resources,” Sandeen recalled. “Our board said, ‘Absolutely.’ It has always been our mission to get other state laws passed.’”

While these behind-the-scenes efforts were under way, former Gov. Booth Gardner, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, announced that he would campaign for a right-to-die initiative in Washington. But what Gardner had in mind initially was not a carbon copy of the Oregon law.

The former governor wanted a law that would allow him and others with Parkinson’s, a nonterminal illness, to end their lives at a time of their choosing if their suffering became unbearable.

Preston said he and others explained to Gardner that the Oregon law, with its safeguards, represented good politics as well as good medicine.

“If someone who wasn’t terminally ill could use the law, I would vote against it,” Preston said. “It would lead to abuses.”

Ultimately, Gardner agreed to campaign for a law nearly identical to Oregon’s, though it would not benefit him personally. He has called the campaign a “first step” toward passage of a more far-reaching law one day.

As of June 11, Yes on 1-1000 had raised nearly $1.2 million, including in-kind contributions — more than half from out-of-state donors and organizations. About $440,000 came from two Oregon advocacy groups, Oregon Compassion and Choices and the Death With Dignity National Center. Gardner has given $120,000 to the campaign so far.

The opposition campaign, Coalition Against Assisted Suicide, had raised $95,600, mostly from Washington donors.

Although proponents of Washington Death with Dignity have raised far more money to date, Sandeen expects the Catholic Church to contribute as much as $6 million to the campaign to defeat the measure.

“This issue has popular support,” Sandeen said. “People from all over the country have seen a loved one facing a prolonged death. I think people give money because it’s profoundly personal. They want it in their state.”

Still, that’s no guarantee that I-1000 is headed for an easy victory, said Oregon attorney Eli Stutsman, who led the legal team that defended the Oregon law before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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