By Katie Wingo
(June 22, 2015) One of the nation’s largest, leading daily newspapers, The Washington Post, published a rousing endorsement for medical aid in dying legislation nationwide in today’s paper. The editorial focused on bills in California, the District of Columbia, and Maryland modeled after the Oregon law. It cited the stories about Brittany Maynard, John Rehm (Diane Rehm’s husband), national polling data, and the work that Compassion & Choices has done this year to advance end-of-life legislation in DC and at least 24 states.
Five states have authorized aid in dying as an end-of-life option, with Oregon being the first state to do so 18 years ago. California’s End of Life Option Act just passed through the state senate and now the state Assembly is considering it.
“Closely watched are events in California. Ms. Maynard lived there before moving to Oregon and in her final days she videotaped a plea to lawmakers to adopt a law similar to Oregon’s and lobbied California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) by phone. After the state medical association recently dropped its long-standing opposition, a measure passed the state senate and is set for a hearing this month in the lower house; a lawsuit – a route successfully used in New Mexico and Montana – also is being pressed with the claim that both the state constitution and existing state law allow the medical practice of aid in dying.”
The editorial summarized the usual criticisms of death-with-dignity legislation and refuted the religious and moral objections and fears of abuse that opponents typically cite:
“Oregon’s 18 years of experience do not confirm any of these fears. Enacted in 1997, Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act allows terminally ill adults who are residents of the state to obtain and use prescriptions for self-administered lethal doses. Stringent protections include a life expectancy of less than six months, a finding of mental capability, a concurring opinion from a second doctor, mandatory discussion of hospice and other options, waiting periods and more.”
The Washington Post endorsement is absolutely spot-on in its conclusion:
“Death with dignity laws need to be carefully thought out, written and monitored. Oregon and the states that followed its example show that such care is possible. We hope the rest of the nation catches up with this humane option for life’s end.”
You can read the complete editorial by clicking here.