This year there is a ballot initiative in Washington State called the "Death with Dignity" Act, which would allow an adult who is terminally ill to seek a lethal prescription from a doctor, effectively ending their lives at a time and in a means of their choosing rather than hanging on by a thread until they are in more pain than is humane, or are in complete vegetative states.
When this initiative was collecting signatures, I refused to add mine. I decided (much like I had with the smoking ban a couple years ago) that I wouldn't sign, but if it got onto the ballot I would at least consider voting for it. It took me a long time to actually make that decision, and even when I was looking at my ballot on Saturday I briefly considered voting against it, but in the end I voted for it.
Why? What were my concerns? Well, first let me tell you that seeking a lethal prescription is seeking to commit suicide, and that's not a decision I can support, even knowing that a person is going to die in a manner that is painful, dehumanizing, etc. However, it's not my choice. I am not terminally ill, and neither is anyone with whom I am close, and that means that it's not up to me to decide when and how a person should die.
So, like one of the reasons I am pro-choice (that is, it's up to the woman in question what to do with the contents of her uterus, not anyone else and certainly not the government), I ended up supporting this initiative because I am only in charge of my life and what I do with it. Not having had to face the dehumanizing effects of terminal illness in it's last stage, I don't have anything to look on here. And I believe that, as human beings, we ultimately want to live, and just seeking a lethal prescription which one administers one's self, does not necessarily mean that the patient will go home and commit suicide right away.
You see, the terminally ill are already planning their deaths. They are making amends, they are drafting wills, they are having parties, and saying goodbye, but after all of those things are done, they have to wait for death. I believe that the knowledge of my impending death would be so torturous that I, too, would seek some kind of way to know when and how. A quiet death in one's sleep is much easier on both family and patient... instead of having to watch your loved one deteriorate physically, mentally, until they are no longer the person you know and perhaps barely a person at all.
It was difficult for me to support this measure because I like to think that I am immortal and that whatever pain I am in I will live through -- that's been the theme of my entire life. But I, like everyone, am not immortal. I will die one day. You will die one day. I would hope that if my end was determined to be a slow and painful deterioration, I would not be forced to endure that torture -- that's what we're voting on here.
Live well, but die well too.