Friday, August 29, 2008

I-1000 Proposal in Washington State is reckless, unnecessary

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Rheba de Tornyay wrote an excellent guest column on the Washington State I-1000 assisted suicide initiative that was published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on August 25, 2008.

Rheba de Tornyay
de Tornyay supported Initiative 119, the failed initiative in the early 90s to legalize assisted suicide in Washington State. She writes about her experience as she cared for her husband Rudy and journeyed with him while he was dying. Through the process of caring for her husband she becomes opposed to assisted suicide.

de Tornyay explains:
"Rudy, my husband for 53 years, was an ideal candidate for assisted suicide. The doctors told him he had only a few painful months to live. He had no religious convictions against suicide and every reason to embrace it. He was old -- in his 90s. He despised pain, dependency and the prospect of becoming a burden on me."
Further to that de Tornyay states:
"He could expect my support because ... I had robustly supported Initiative 119, the narrowly defeated precursor of this November's Initiative 1000, the "death with dignity" proposition.
What happens?
"My husband survived for 28 months and died last year. But at the end, to my astonishment, I realized I could no longer support physician-assisted suicide." de Tornyay asks "How could that be?"
She explains:
"I had not experienced a religious conversion. I prized the right to choose whether to produce new life or end one's own, for the 50 years I had been a nurse. I knew the emotional and financial drain a lingering passing can inflict on loved ones and a community's medical resources. Rudy's slow march to death convinced me that proposals such as I-1000 are reckless and unnecessary."
Why? de Tornyay writes:
"Much of my change stems from my discovery, common to surviving spouses, that life is precious to the end. We would have lost wonderful days recalling splendid and troubled times. But I also saw that we now have the means to end the misery without ending the life."
de Tornyay also comes to realize the wider concerns, she states:
"Lost in the fusillades are those who suffer prolonged problems and people with disabilities who fear -- reasonably I believe -- that a profit-preoccupied medical establishment combined with emotionally and financially stressed families would press them to accept death, regardless of the heralded safeguards laws would contain."
de Tornyay recognizes that their are other answers, she states:
"Support for hospice, the shining light of hope and compassion for the dying, is growing rapidly. Use of this home-based, family guided, comfort-focused care should be the objective for all care of the terminally ill."
de Tornyay asks the question:
"Do we want a potentially dangerous law that fewer than 50 people a year use in Oregon? Do we want to pay for agencies that will monitor the law and provide bureaucratic reports to the Legislature? Or do we want to spend our resources assuring the preservation and expansion of Medicare and private insurance hospice benefits to promote a peaceful end so that all our citizens might truly experience death with dignity?"
Thank you Rheba. You have got it right.

Rheba de Tornyay is dean and professor emeritus of the University of Washington School of Nursing.

Link to column

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