We all know that someday we are going to die, but we don’t know much more about the subject than that.
Death could come suddenly, or slowly; in agony, or in peace; in the chaotic flurry of a hospital intensive care unit, or at home.
Since the end comes differently for everyone, it stands to reason that different people will make different choices when it’s their time. One of the choices available to them should be access to medication that allows the individual to choose when it’s time to go.
That’s why we support L.D. 347, “An Act to Support Death With Dignity.”
The bill creates a process through which a patient facing the end of life has an option that’s not legally available now. Someone with fewer than six months to live would be able to request medication to hasten the end of life. If two physicians agree with the diagnosis and prognosis and believe that the patient has the ability to make a rational choice, the medicine could be prescribed.
It would not be right for everyone. The patient would have to be able to think rationally and advocate for themselves. Some people in great pain may not be considered candidates under this law because they are not in the last six months of their lives. Others would meet the clinical criteria, but would not be ready to give up hope and would choose not to obtain the medication.
Everyone is different, and that’s why it’s important to have choices. Current law cuts down options.
Studies show that 80 percent of people would prefer to die at home, but most people don’t get their wish. More than half die in acute care facilities in hospitals, 20 percent at nursing homes and only 20 percent at home. In Oregon, which legalized doctor-assisted suicide 20 years ago, those numbers are turned upside-down. Patients are less likely to receive intensive care and more likely to die at home than the national averages.
Opponents of the bill warn that it could be turned into a euthanasia program, which people in power could use to cull the disabled or those who need expensive care. Others question whether a manipulative person could take advantage of a very sick person’s finances and then hasten their end.
But it is wrong to force some people to suffer very real pain because someone else could commit a hypothetical offense. There are better ways to protect against wrongdoing.
Legislators shouldn’t make our end-of-life decisions, but they should make all reasonable choices available to us. It should be up to the individual, not the government, to decide how and when the end should come.