The View from Hell

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Worries about Oregon’s Law are Without Merit

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Katharine Whitehorn has an article in The Guardian about Oregon’s assisted suicide law (How to die ‘the Oregon way’). It’s a valuable article that’s worth reading in its entirety – she examines the strict safeguards of the law (a woman who had lived in Oregon all her life, but moved to Hawaii to retire two years before being diagnosed with terminal cancer, didn’t qualify), the effects of the law on the treatment of patients (better pain management and better hospice care), and Oregonians’ attitudes toward assisted suicide.

Here is an excerpt, dealing with the difficulties of accessing peaceful death under Oregon’s law:

So, is it all dead easy in Oregon? Not really. The very safeguards in the rules also serve to exclude some who might dearly love to have access to a planned and dignified death. It is the educated, the competent, those with a decent relationship with a doctor – which, in practice, usually means those with a decent relationship with health insurance – who are likely to seek it. The very poor have Medicaid, (which doesn’t pay too well so not all doctors welcome it), those in employment or pensioned retirement have good insurance, and the elderly have Medicare. But it is very difficult for those who are hard up, in erratic employment but not actually on the streets – those who make up the 17% of those who have no insurance at all – to raise the required cash to form a satisfactory relationship with the doctor, who has to certify the patient has less than six months to go. This often excludes those with Aids or MS or, of course, Alzheimer’s. Of the European countries that have assisted death, only Holland does not require death to be more or less imminent. Yet if you are bleakly in pain and not going to die pretty soon anyway, you might ache even more for an ending to it all.

Clearly, privilege and money play a role in assisted suicide – the privileged are more likely to have access to it, and to choose it. And those who are not on death’s door might often desire death even more than those who are about to die anyway.

(Please see this synopsis of Washington’s proposed law in Scientific American for the most hilariously contrived piece of stock photography I’ve probably ever seen.)


Written by Sister Y

October 13, 2008 at 1:27 am

One Response

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  1. Hahaha, that IS a stupid photo!

    Sister Wolf

    October 17, 2008 at 5:28 am

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