Musings on Assisted Suicide

The airing of the Frontline story entitled The Suicide Plan came shortly after we had discussed assisted suicide in our criminal law class. I wonder if States make assisted suicide legal if they could or would go so far as to outline which forms of death are acceptable and which ones are not. Perhaps if Texas chose to make assisted suicide legal pharmacies could carry the lethal cocktail that is given to death row inmates in a nifty little kit with a vile and needle or maybe we would want to further regulate the administration of those drugs and have people go through a doctor’s office and make it a procedure. I wonder if health insurance would cover that final visit? I would argue that they should because the patient could potentially be saving them loads of money in the end by refusing to prolong treatment for cancer or some other very expensive ailment. If we come to the point, some say we have long been there, where we are rationing health care because there is not enough to go around then maybe assisted suicide should be legal. Who are we as a society to say that person A get the life saving treatment and person B because of age or financial status or other reasons does not but also may not choose to end her life but must suffer until the end. Where do our feelings on not allowing suicide stem from? Maybe some biblical passage about taking life, even one’s own, to be a sin. However, are we not supposed to have a separation between church and state or is that another of the many legal fictions we have created. A further issue would be knowing when someone had asked for help with suicide and when someone covers up a murder to make it look like someone did. This could be easily solved though by making assisted suicide something relegated to the doctor’s office. Maybe there needs to be some initial visit with a psychologist before hand and lots of forms filled out and maybe there is a waiting period like the fabulous ( read completely sarcastically) new law in Texas that lays out a forced sonogram, some forms, and a waiting period before abortions may be performed. Wonder what kind of HIPAA and privacy issues would come into play? Could you be forced to tell your family your plan before hand? Are there some reasons that would be legally valid to seek out assisted suicide and others not? Like it’s only an option available for those suffering from a doctor validated terminal illness and the prospect is off the table for the overly dramatic had a bad day crowd? In 2009 Washington passed a law allowing patients to seek a prescription from their doctors to end their lives if certain criteria are met. The patient must have a terminal illness and less than 6 months to live. That brings up the questions of how that is measured? If one doctor says you have 12 months can you get a second opinion and shop around until you hear what you want to? Further restrictions in place according to the Washing Death With Dignity Act require written notice of the patient’s intent as witnessed by two individuals and the patient’s request must be made twice at least 15 days apart. Washington’s law follows a similar one passed in Oregon in 1996. Today they are the only two states who allow assisted suicide under a given set of circumstances.

Although I would like to think I would fight until the end I can definitely see the appeal of going out on one’s own terms. I would do a very Gatsbyesque (it’s a new word)/ Meet Joe Black (great movie) party and celebrate life and then crawl into bed ( it is my one of my favorite places in the world – we have a great fluffy mattress- although I would have to weigh this against being on a beach somewhere- its almost a tie) pop the pills and chase them with a great champagne. I have never thought about committing suicide so it is very strange to write about it but I could see the appeal of that versus slowly withering away in pain or being so drugged up to dull the pain that waking hours are few and not very lucid- on a stiff mattress in a hospital with a catheter and florescent lighting with sheets patients with who knows what slept on before me that scratch from frequent washings, a prisoner of my illness. To die early would inevitably mean missing a few last moments of wonder and grace that peek through the clouds of disease when one least expects it. It would be an incredibly difficult choice. One I hope at this moment I never have to make or watch someone make. I think that assisted suicide would not be an option for me personally, however, in thinking about it being made legal it does in a sense unlock a door I would previously have never dreamed of opening because I knew it was off limits. I hope that made sense. So in the end with nothing but conjecture to go on my plan would be to have that crazy fun party to end all parties while I could still enjoy it and then hopefully gracefully and naturally with as much pain medication as needed enjoy the rest of the time I naturally have left. What are your thoughts?

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