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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

We’ll live to regret suicide initiative

Chris Carlson Special to The Spokesman-Review

The state of Washington this week started down the slippery slope of incentivizing its citizens to kill themselves prematurely, with the implicit support of health insurance companies, and the connivance of some physicians, and even some hospitals, despite their supposed adherence to the Hippocratic Oath of doing no harm to people.

Fortunately, here in Spokane, the Providence System Hospitals (Sacred Heart, Holy Family) exercised their right under the voter-passed initiative to “opt out” by invoking a conscience clause. We’ll see how long that lasts as the relentless forces of doom and death predictably are already attacking this right also.

Unfortunately, the state Department of Health, charged with developing regulations for implementing the new physician-assisted suicide initiative, merely (and blindly) adopted Oregon’s regulations which even a minimal review by an objective observer show to be inadequate and rife with problems.

Quite simply the department shirked its responsibility to protect our vulnerable populations (the aged, the infirm, the disabled, minorities) whose lives, make no mistake about it, could be terminated without their consent. Voters of this state bought into the false notion that this initiative would somehow ensure their right to choose to end their life (a right already existing), but will soon discover they have empowered the state to appropriate that power to itself and others. This law would allow someone with your power of attorney to have you killed under the guise that you really wanted to kill yourself.

To state it bluntly, voters endorsed something intrinsically wrong. The state should not be incentivizing people supposedly given six months or less to live to end their lives prematurely. The fundamental purpose of people banding together, the first law of the social contract, is we come together to protect life, especially the weak, the lame, the disabled, those who might not be economic producers and generators because as a society we in America have always held life to be of intrinsic and incalculable value.

Now, instead of trusting God to determine the natural course of one’s life, and turning to focusing on better compassionate care for those who have to deal with the challenges of end-of-life issues, Washingtonians can now play God and ask the state to assist them to die earlier than their natural course of life. It is a Faustian bargain I believe voters will come to regret, as folks soon realize the state and insurance companies can and will more and more determine who lives and who dies, with economic issues overriding ethical concerns.

And if you think the state will protect you, guess again. Despite numerous concerns raised by physicians and others with the Department of Health regarding the shortcoming of Oregon’s regulations, the department rubber-stamped Oregon’s rules for Washington.

Thus, there is no adequate enforcement of the reporting requirements and no real transparency in this new law. Nor are there any real penalties for failure to report. Additionally the informed consent form is grossly inadequate. It requires less information and has fewer safeguards than the forms the department requires for mundane procedures like piercing one’s ears. A physician is not required to be in attendance; indeed, while the request form requires two witnesses, there is no requirement for anyone, let alone an impartial observer, to witness the suicide.

The definition of mental competency is sorely lacking also, with no real requirement for counseling with mental health professionals even though we all know that almost always a desire to commit suicide is a sign of a depressed mind seeking to do what we once knew to be totally irrational. But suddenly this intrinsic wrong can be considered rational. What kind of Orwellian world are we sinking into, my friends?

The list of shortcomings is much longer, but why bother? The people of this state sadly bought the classic pig in a poke, and few will care until they realize toward the end of their own lives that someone else is driving the decision on when and how life may end.

So lift that cup of hemlock, my friends, and drink deeply from the draught of insanity being redefined as sanity, of the irrational being called rational, of your supposed newfound right to play God.

Chris Carlson, of Spokane, was given six months to live in November 2005 after being diagnosed with a rare and fatal form of neuroendocrine cancer. Last year he was the statewide chairperson of the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide, which opposed Initiative 1000.