I have recently read that assisted suicides have been increasing dramatically in the state of Washington, where they were legalized in 2000. In 2002, there were 88 assisted suicides. The physicians of these people made some determinations about long-term physical and mental health, the possibilities of recovery and suffering, counseled them regarding their true desire to die, and then dispensed legalized lethal drugs.
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While the Supreme Court of the United States has upheld the law in Washington, I doubt that this phenomenon is going to spread throughout the country. Iím certain weíll never see it appear in the Deep South states, and Iím reasonably certain it will never take hold in Pennsylvania, my home state. The Pacific Northwest, which includes Washington, has always been very left-of-center (why am I not there?!), while the Deep South and many other Eastern states such as Pennsylvania are unfortunately often the strongholds of right-wing opinion.
Yet Iím still disturbed, however strongly I support freedom of choice, by the appearance of legalized assisted suicide in Washington. I supported the concept during the rampage of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, prior to his imprisonment, but now that large numbers of people are Ďopting outí, all in one locality, I worry. What if a large number of states ratified such a law? How many people across the land would Ďopt outí?
I can only say what most people would likely say: time will tell whether many state legislatures legalize assisted suicide. What I do know and fear, should this occur, is that many, many people will take this legal opportunity to find an easy Ďexití from what might be an impossibly difficult or painful life but is still a human life.
Like abortion, this is surely going to be an eternally debated issue, with never an end in sight for legal argument and political wrangling. It will simply never end. Politicians will drag this one out like a bloody shirt to wave in front of voters, whichever side they take, just as is happening even now in the state of Washington. There, groups assembled against the standing law continually protest against it and have been dragging the fight to Congress to gain an upper hand in their efforts to strike it down. As I mentioned, though, it hasnít worked.
Iím grateful that the Left can still defeat Republinazis on some issues. Still, I wonder Ė
Might the right wing be right about this particular issue?
Most of those people will say that God has spoken through their literalist interpretations, and that God says they are right. My own Roman Catholic church, while not fundamentalist, says so too. But what of my own opinion and my reverence for the freedom-to-choose?
Again, I say: time will tell. If this becomes a holocaust, with the lambs going into the slaughter voluntarily, I might have to side with the right wing on this one.
Legalized assisted suicide, except in the worst medical cases, might simply be too much to allow in any society.