Critics of a proposed assisted suicide initiative in Washington state have charged that it is part of a strategy to legalize assisted suicide throughout the country. Arguing that the passage of Initiative 1000, also called the “Washington Death with Dignity Act,” would make doctors into killers, they argue the bill lacks mental health safeguards and claim its adoption into law would also reverse longstanding beliefs that suicide is a tragedy.
Rita L. Marker, executive director of the Steubenville-based International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, argued in an article on the American Thinker website that assisted suicide advocates had believed Oregon’s adoption of an assisted suicide measure in 1994 would be followed by similar laws in other states.
When other states failed to pass laws, Marker reported, the Portland, Oregon-based Death with Dignity National Center and the group Compassion & Choices, which was formerly known as the Hemlock Society, in 2005 organized a plan called "Oregon plus One."
“It is based on the premise that, if just one more state follows Oregon's lead, then other states will fall in line,” Marker wrote, saying that assisted suicide activists selected Washington state as a target for their advocacy.
The Death with Dignity National Center, which backs Initiative 1000, argues on its web site: “The greatest human freedom is to live, and die, according to one's own desires and beliefs. The most common desire among those with a terminal illness is to die with some measure of dignity. From advance directives to physician-assisted dying, death with dignity is a movement to provide options for the dying to control their own end-of-life care.”
Initiative 1000 is opposed by John Peyton, a Washington man who is paralyzed and dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease. He explained his opposition in a video posted on the website of the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide.
“I’m one of those people who is somewhat a target of the initiative,” he said. “I don’t know how we, as a society, could really consider making doctors into killers.”
The Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC) also opposes the initiative, saying the proposal is “contrary to Catholic teaching that life is sacred and that God alone is the true sovereign over life.”
“Human dignity and worth are simply innate to our relationship to God and not dependent on our social usefulness,” the WSCC continued on its web site. “As Catholics we believe that a caring society assists persons with terminal illnesses, and their loved ones, to live as fully as possible the time they have left together.”
The WSCC also argued Initiative 1000 “reverses a longstanding social belief that considers suicide a tragedy” and thus undermines trust in doctors’ dedication to health care.
“Assisting in a suicide would turn the care-giving relationship between physicians and vulnerable patients upside down,” the WSCC said. “Once committed solely to the well-being of their patients, physicians would be legally allowed to help their patients kill themselves.”
Further, the WSCC charged that the bill lacks requirements to notify families of a suicidal patient and to evaluate the mental health of a person requesting assisted suicide.
Initiative proponents are well-backed financially. According to the web site of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, as of Tuesday the “Yes on 1000” committee has reported receipts of $1,856,252.
Of that sum, $775,330 is attributed to assisted suicide advocacy groups and the campaign spokesperson, former Governor Booth Gardner. The International Task Force reported that the figure is almost double the amount of donations in the same time period reported by the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide.
LifeSiteNews.com reports that a poll of 1,000 adults and 718 likely voters in Washington State was conducted from August 11 to 12. The poll claimed 51 percent of survey respondents said they were leaning towards supporting the measure, with only 26 percent saying they were leaning against it.
Another statewide poll reported 39 percent favoring the initiative, with 26 percent opposing it.