Monday, January 4, 2010

Precise Reporting on Baxter v. Montana.

Chattahbox has a little bit about the Baxter v. Montana case that is swiped from NPR and which found me via the conservative Alliance Defense Fund.

This may seem nitpicky but it's not: Chattahbox, in their efforts to paraphrase the facts of the case, writes:

Ruling on Baxter v. Montana, a case filed by a Billings truck driver Robert Baxter (who has since died), but wanted his doctors to administer a lethal dose of medication after being diagnosed with leukemia, the court said it found “nothing in Montana Supreme Court precedent or Montana statutes indicating that physician aid in dying is against public policy:”

What's my problem with the report? Robert Baxter didn't approach the state after his diagnosis, he decided he would like the option of aid in dying after more than 10 years of trying to survive leukemia. NPR got it right. Chattah box could have too. Baxter exhausted all the existing treatments and suffered their horrible side effects. A decade of ups and downs and suffering. He had come to the end of an illness that without medical technology may have killed him years before.

But the same medical technology that keeps us alive has changed the possibility of what we call a natural death. Writing about contentious issue of aid in dying requires specificity. Baxter didn't want to kill himself. He didn't even want to die. He didn't get a bad diagnosis and run to the state for lethal meds. But after an extended fight, he knew he would die.

Or as Baxter writes in his affidavit for the case:

I am terminally ill with lymphocytic leukemia with diffuse lymphadenopathy, a form of cancer, which is a progressive disease with no known cure. It results in the bone marrow making an excessive number of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, which crowd out normal blood cells, suppress the immune system, and render the body unable to fight off infections as effectively as normal. It is treated with multiple rounds of chemotherapy, which typically become less and less effective as time passes.

As a result of the leukemia and the treatment I have received to combat it, I have suffered varying symptoms including anemia, chronic fatigue and weakness, nausea, night sweats, intermittent and persistent infections, massively swollen glands, easy bruising, significant ongoing digestive problems, and generalized pain and discomfort. These symptoms, as well as others, are expected to increase in frequency and intensity as the chemotherapy loses its effectiveness and the disease progresses.

Given the nature of my illness, I have no reasonable prospect of a cure or recovery. As the cancer takes its toll, I face the progressive erosion of bodily function and integrity, increasing pain and suffering, and the loss of my personal dignity.

I have lived a good and long life, and have no wish to leave this world prematurely. As death approaches from my disease, however, if my suffering becomes unbearable I want the legal option of being able to die in a peaceful and dignified manner by consuming medication prescribed by my doctor for that purpose. Because it will be my suffering, my life, and my death that will be involved, I seek the right and responsibility to make that critical choice for myself if circumstances lead me to do so.

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