Sound Off: Consider Death With Dignity

Please consider signing the Washington State “Death With Dignity” Initiative, known as I-1000. The text of the Washington initiative is based on Oregon law, passed by initiative 14 years ago, which has proved to be safe and effective.

This initiative will allow mentally competent, terminally ill adult residents of Washington state diagnosed with six months or less to lives the legal choice to obtain and self-administer life-ending medications. Eligible patients would have the option to make a voluntary, legal, informed, and personal decision with their physician and their families, with numerous safeguards to protect the patient from influence or coercion. Some of the safeguards are the requirement that the patient be mentally capable of making and communicating health care decisions for themselves, that two physicians must affirm that all of the criteria of the law have been met, and must inform the patient of feasible alternatives including comfort care, hospice care and pain control.

I support I-1000 out of compassion for those who need it and as an issue of an individual’s right to make medical decisions for themselves. A full text of the initiative including all of the safeguards and other information is available at www.yeson1000.org.

One might understandably ask: With today’s medical advances, doesn’t proper pain management negate the need for the proposed initiative? It’s true, advances in end of life and hospice care have made great contributions to the end of life process for many. I fully support and applaud this work. There are those, however, for whom even the most aggressive symptom management fails to alleviate suffering. I know this, as I am sure many others do, from personal experience with the death of loved ones.

Perhaps it is because of advances in medical care that so few people in Oregon have actually make use of the law. Forty-six Oregonians did so in 2006. One third of those who have obtained life-ending prescriptions in Oregon did not use them, but were perhaps given tremendous peace of mind, knowing they had an alternative.

I quote from a January 10, “Seattle Times” editorial in favor of I-1000: “The “death with dignity” ballot measure promoted by former governor Booth Gardner deserves public support. Assisted suicide for the terminally ill is humane and, as Oregon has demonstrated, can be administered in a civilized way. It provides a choice that is actually taken by fewer than two dying people per thousand, but for them it solves a terrible problem.”

Volunteer initiative signature gathers are needed on Whidbey Island, especially Central and North Whidbey. If interested in more information about volunteering to gather signatures in public places, or from friends and family, please call John Goertzel at 360-342-2434 or e-mail threshold@whidbey.com or contact the I-1000 office at 206-633-2008 or campaign@yeson1000.org

John Goertzel, Clinton/Langley

Whidbey Island I-1000 Volunteer coordinator

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