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Eye On Olympia

Is it “physician-assisted suicide” or “self-administer(ing) lethal medication”?

That’s the question that a judge in Thurston County will soon have to decide.

Foes of a proposed initiative to allow assisted suicide for terminally ill people are challenging the ballot title and ballot summary, saying the language written by the state Attorney General’s office uses a clumsy euphemism (“self-administer lethal medication”) to describe ending one’s life. (With initiatives, the state drafts a 10-word subject, 30-word description and 75-word summary.)

“The title strains to avoid using the term `assisted suicide’ when that is clearly what the initiative is about,” says Duane French, with the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide.

Proponents of what they call the Death with Dignity law say it’s wrong to call such a decision suicide.

“Suicide is hurtful and derogatory term to both a dying patient and the patient’s loved ones,” said a white paper proponents handed out to reporters when the measure was filed last month. “It conjures images of irrational, depressed teenagers, adults with mental illness, and terrorist bombers. It suggests guns and violence. It suggests the patient is choosing death over life. But the fact is a dying patient can’t choose life.”

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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