a.k.a. Euthanasia, and Medical Aid in Dying (MAID).
All sides to the issue.
"Whose life is it, anyway?" A plea by the late Sue Rodrigues, a high-profile, terminally-ill resident of British
Columbia, Canada, who suffered from ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig Disease). 1 She committed suicide during the early 1990's
in the presence of a physician and MP (Member of Parliament). Although the police investigated the death, neither
the doctor nor the MP were prosecuted. Apparently, Sue committed suicide without any direct help from the other two people who were present for emotional support.
"We are disappointed at the
decision. The president remains fully committed to building a culture of life
... that is built on valuing life at all stages." White House spokesman
Scott McClellan speaking for President George W. Bush, responding to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2006-JAN
which found the Oregon physician assisted suicide legislation to be
"The right to a good
death is a basic human freedom. The [2006-JAN] Supreme Court's decision to uphold aid
in dying allows us to view and act on death as a dignified moral and godly
choice for those suffering with terminal illnesses." John Shelby Spong, retired bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA. 3
Webmaster's suggestions to persons considering suicide:
A root cause for the desire to commit suicide is often depression. This can often be controlled with medication. If you are depressed, I strongly recommend that you seek medical help to lift your depression.
Another major cause of suicidal ideation is often intolerable levels of pain associated with a terminal illness, like cancer. Many physicians are reluctant to prescribe high levels of some pain killers out of fear that the person will become addicted to them. If you are suffering from pain in spite of medication, try insisting on better levels or types of pain killers. Recruit friends and family to intercede with your physician if you can.
If you feel overwhelmed and lack an effective support system of friends and family, consider tapping into the services of a crisis hotline. These are called by various names in North America: distress centers, crisis centers, suicide prevention centers, etc. Their telephone numbers can often be found in the first page(s) of your telephone directory. If you cannot find a number for a center in your area, try phoning directory assistance at 4-1-1.
Crisis centers/distress centers/ etc are often confidential services that you can phone up at any time of the day or night for support. You can usually remain anonymous.
Wikipedia lists suicide crisis lines for many countries from Australia to the United States at: https://en.wikipedia.org/ Although these lines are often called "suicide prevention lines" or "crisis lines." most of the people calling are not suicidal, not in crisis, but are in distress. So, don't be reluctant to call them because you are "only" in distress.
Throughout North America, committing suicide or attempting to commit suicide
is no longer a criminal offense. However, helping another person commit suicide is
generally considered a
very serious criminal act.
Nine exceptions in the U.S. and Canada are:
Montana does not have a PAS law that is in effect. However, a ruling by the state Supreme Court in 2009-DEC-21 found that a doctor could use a patient's request for life ending medication as a defense against criminal charges. This ruling effectively made PAS legal in the state.
Oregon became the first state to pass a law allowing people who are
terminally ill, in intractable pain, and not depressed to obtain a lethal prescription from their
physician which they may decide to consume and end their chronic suffering. This is called "Physician Assisted Suicide" or PAS. The law became effective in 1997.
Washington State voters passed Initiative 1000 in
2008-NOV. Supporters call it a "Death with Dignity bill;" opponents call it
an "Assisted Suicide" measure. Both are accurate descriptions. It is similar to the Oregon law.
Vermont's PAS legislation has been in effective since 2013.
California's bill allowing PAS is called the "End of Life Option Act." It took effect on 2016-JUN-09, and was patterned after Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. Two public opinion polls during 2015 indicated 76% and 72.5% public support. 5
Colorado has allowed PAS since 2016-JUN-09, following voters' approval of Proposition 106. 6
Hawaii has allowed PAS since 2019-JAN-07, when a law signed by Governor Ige (D) on 2018-APR-05 became effective. 7
New Jersey's PAS bill was signed into law on 2019-APR-12 by Governor Phil Murphy (D), and becomes effective on 2019-AUG-01.
Maine's bill allowing PAS is called the "Maine Death with Dignity Act" It took effect on 2019-JUN-12, and was patterned after Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. It had previously failed a public vote and -- on at least seven times -- in the Legislature. 5
In Canada, the Supreme Court ruled in 2015-FEB that adults with some medical condition are entitled to physician assisted suicide. This ruling was stayed and will not take effect until 2016-JUN-06 when the court ordered the federal government to have enabling legislation in place.
There were four failed ballot initiatives between 1991 and 2000:
1991: Washington state: defeated narrowly 54% to 46%
1992: California: Defeated narrowly 54% to 46%
1998: Michigan: Defeated overwhelmingly 71% to 29%
2000: Maine: Defeated very narrowly 51% to 49%.
Between 1994 and 2016, there have been in excess of 75 legislative bills to legalize PAS in at least 21
states. Almost all failed to become law. 4
Typically, these laws require a person to have a terminal illness that will probably cause their death within six months. Also, they have to prove that they are not depressed and are capable of making a rational decision.
For frequent updates on assisted suicide topics, consult:
The Death with Dignity National Center (DDNC) is a pro-choice agency. They issue periodic newsletters covering recent developments on this topic. See http://www.deathwithdignity.org/ to view the most recent newsletter and/or to sign up for Email updates.
The International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide is a pro-life agency that opposes physician assisted suicide. They have a list of recent news items on their home page at: http://www.internationaltaskforce.org/
The author of this section had his 82nd birthday just before Christmas in 2018, and is in good health. To him, end of life issues have
taken on a personal aspect. Being an Agnostic, he
sees no evidence for the existence of an afterlife. He does not fear death. He does not fear being dead. However, he has considerable fear about the
process of dying, For many people in North America is an agonizingly painful and
lengthy process during which time one's enjoyment of life often drops to zero and becomes negative without any hope that it will return to positive territory. Fortunately for him, he lives in Canada which -- like all other
developed countries except for the U.S. -- has universal health care.
So he will receive competent medical attention. Unfortunately, pain management is often as poorly managed in Canada as it is in the U.S.
He regards suicide as a civil right and would prefer that he have access to a means of suicide if life becomes unbearable. He thus strongly supports legalizing
physician assisted suicide.
He is critical of all of the PAS laws that have been passed to date because they generally give access to assisted dying only to terminally ill people who are expected to die in the near future of natural causes. They do not do anything for people who experience chronic, overwhelming pain with no hope of relief for years. They also don't help people who are mentally or physically disabled to the point where continuing to live is intolerable.
He has attempted to remain impartial, objective and fair while
writing these essays.