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Friday, September 19, 2008

Freedom and Choice?

Oregon has a "Death with Dignity" law on the books. That is a euphemism for assisted suicide, which itself is a euphemism for murder by medical care worker. Well, surprise, surprise, it turns out that it is a choice for you if you are paying for your own medical care, but if the state is they choose death for you. There was plenty of evidence around the world that this would be the kind of approach such a law would permit and encourage, look at the Netherlands, for example, but people here seem to think that it will be different for us. Or perhaps they just don't want to foot the bill to help patients with cancer, alzheimer's or other long term diseases.

There is a bill here in Washington which would do the same thing. When the petitions were going around to get it on the ballot, most of the petitioneers (those people with the paper and clip board) didn't even know what the law was about. They hadn't read it. When I told them that there was no provision that protected the choice of the patient to seek medical treatment to prolong life (from insurance companies wishing to maximize their cost effectiveness, from hospitals who wanted to clear beds for the next patient, from government medical plans which would try to save the tax payer money by offing those they deemed unworthy of life), most of them were shocked.

You think medical decisions aren't influenced by pressure from insurance companies, hospital accounting boards and bureaucrats in government agencies? Change the medical issue and see if that is true still. They sell these laws on a vague concept of choice and freedom, but in the end, it is someone else's freedom and choice that determine your end. The proposed law says that it can only be used for a patient whose doctor has predicted that the patient has six months or less to live. How often are doctors wrong about this? Do we expect them to be prophets and God all rolled into one? Surely, someone has figured out that it wouldn't be hard to get a doctor to "predict" something like that for a patient who is depressed enough to wish suicide, or for a patient whose case is particularly complicated and would take a long time.

If you are in Washington state, I encourage you to vote against this ill thought out and dangerous law. Vote no on Washington Initiative 1000. For anyone else, be vigilant in watching your own state government's movements toward such a thing.

Also, get a Will to Live or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Rich and I both had our lawyer draw up the paper work for our health directives to reflect that we wanted not only basic nourishment and hydration (which is increasingly being considered an extraordinary measure of care), but also pain medication and lifesaving care. We each have given durable power of attorney to the other, and specifically we each also have durable power of attorney for health care. We both know where our Church draws the line on extraordinary care, we both share the same beliefs and values and we both would approach such a decision with prayer, study and good counsel from godly medical professionals as well as spiritual leaders. Since we know there isn't a judge in our state (and probably in our country) who wouldn't overturn our legal requests should one of us insist on it, we figure if it really comes down to it, and there are truly extraordinary measures being taken to prolong one of our lives, then the other would get the legal document overridden. Until that point, we do not want a doctor, hospital budgeting board, insurance company or a government agency making the decision to end our lives.

Here is my (slightly) tongue in cheek will to live. Edit it as you see fit for your own use.


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