Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Hampshire Considers Death with Dignity.

A judiciary committee in New Hampshire has begun work on a bill that could legislatively legalize Death with Dignity in New Hampshire.

From Schoolhouse Rock we know that a bill, once written, has a long way to go before being adopted but a push for legalization in New Hampshire, a traditionally independent state, makes sense and should have a chance. New Hampshire would join Oregon, Washington, and Montana (should the Montana Supreme Court uphold the appeal case Baxter v. Montana).

The bill is sponsored by Charles Weed, a democratic representative from Keene. A vote will be made by the House next year.

How Do You Want to Die?

"How do you want to die?"

I was asked this question while sitting in the cozy booth of the Diner in Williamsburg, savoring a steak, by an interviewing VP for a company I really wanted to work for. His name was Kevin and he wore a quirky go-tee and asked the question as though he had spitted it out at every candidate for the job.

I'd like to fall a great height and hopefully make peace with my life on the way down. A quick end, a chance to notice that it was indeed the end, I replied.

I got the job but I don't think solely because of my choice of deaths. Years later and a number of crushing deaths of family members, I am mesmerized by the frailty of the human body and the durability of the human heart. And more than once since Kevin offered me the job I have asked myself, a loved one approaching their own death, how I would like to die.

After my father died, I contacted my lawyer and drew up a specific advance directive/medical power of attorney. But I know that the medical profession's initial reaction in an emergency will not consider these directives. I selfishly hope that I've got another few decades in me and that by the time I'm of failing health, the medical profession will have come back to a more humane use of its resources regarding death.

Ray Buursma at the Holland Sentinel writes a brief and plain column today about why assisted suicide should be legal in Holland and matter-of-factly debunks the opposing arguments. It's a common and common sense rebuttal to those who oppose assisted suicide. But it does little to cross over into a convincing argument.

What I like about the little column is how Buursma contemplates his own death and chastises us for what he calls "society's taboo toward end-of-life choices." This alone, this contemplation of how we wish to die, or perhaps the experience of watching a loved one approach death, does more for the global assisted suicide movement than any argument. Not shying away or hiding behind the taboo allows us to think about death in unsentimental, nondogmatic ways.

In this case, of how we die, experience and information does changes hearts and minds.

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'Cause Hastening Death is Like Robbing Banks and Making Bombs.

The Public Library in Seattle was scheduled to host an Exit International event that would have instructed participants in how to commit assisted suicide. But local law officials advised the city librarian to shut the event down to avoid prosecution:

Section 241 of the Canadian Criminal Code states that it is an indictable offense to counsel or aid or abet any person to commit suicide. The maximum sentence if convicted is 14 years, whether a suicide takes place or not. "This seems sort of, fairly clear to us," Whitney told the media. The two part workshop was to consist of a public discussion on the politics of the assisted suicide movement, and then a private lesson for persons over 55 years of age on specific ways to commit suicide that would include information about which drugs to take, how to obtain them, and how to ingest them. It was this private part of the program that caused the library to cancel the event.

Exit International's controversial founder Dr. Phillip Nitschke hopes to convince the library to reconsider an event that would simply explain information that the library already holds in publication. "What we do at these gatherings is to, first of all, explain to people why we think it's a good idea to know how to kill yourself peacefully and reliably."

John Hof, president of Campaign Life Coalition British Columbia believes that the library made the right decision. He observed that carrying a book about an illegal activity is not equivalent to holding a seminar on how to accomplish such an activity. "I am certain the Library has books about robbing banks, making bombs, and all sorts of other illegal activity. Can we expect 'how to' workshops on these things in the near future and will the Civil Liberties people be lining up to defend the rights of those presenters too? People who give lessons on how to kill people, be it yourself or someone else, should be dealt with by the police and charged with aiding and abetting."

Death with Dignity is legal in Washington state but the restrictions are extensive. A patient must request lethal drugs from their doctor on numerous occasions and the physician is not permitted to suggest it. The qualifying patient, should they find a willing doctor, must be terminally ill (expected to die within six months) and must be of sound mind.

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