By Susan Graybeal
March 13, 2012
According to the Associated Press, the Oregon doctor who championed the state’s right to die laws ended years of suffering from a degenerative brain disorder by taking his own life Sunday. In doing so, I think Dr. Peter Goodwin achieved in death what he had been fighting for in life: The right to die with dignity.
Thanks to the efforts of Goodwin and others, Oregon became the first state that allowed doctors to supply terminally ill patients lethal medications to end suffering. Goodwin believed terminal illness wasn’t a situation that needed hope but rather a situation that needed thought and planning. I agree.
Too many times I’ve seen people suffer at the end of their lives and want desperately for that suffering to end. But — even when it became apparent to the patient, his or her doctors and loved ones that recovery wasn’t possible — state laws required that person to continue suffering while death took its own hard time in coming. While the “right to die” from the use of lethal medications rather than waiting for nature to take its course isn’t something that everyone wants, it’s something that some people desperately want.
Passing a state law allowing this decision to be made doesn’t promote suicide as some might argue. Instead, it allows the decision of when it is time to quit hoping and time to start planning to be one made by a patient and her doctor. It promotes the notion death and the suffering one is able to endure before death comes is a private and personal matter.
Washington and Montana have passed similar Death with Dignity legislation that allows patients this choice and allows doctors to help patients who have made this choice. I wish more states would get beyond the religious objections to the idea and into the compassionate reasons why such legislation makes sense.