Opinion

To kill or not to kill: That is NOT the question

Aida Kouyoumjian
Island Forum

To kill or not to kill is the question for many eligible voters of Initiative 1000, the assisted suicide measure. But for the conscientious citizen, the question is to live or not to live.

We are smart, well-read, opinionated, individualistic and very discerning about what we consume or how we spend money.

The bottom line of I-1000 is money: by not prolonging life, insurance expenditures and estate costs are lessened — saving society's resources for those who are well. What price is human life worth when it becomes recyclable like a plastic bottle? The Washington State Medical Association has taken a consistent position against I-1000.

In everything, we strive to live the natural way. We conserve, buy organic foods, use non-chemical cleansers and wear natural fibers. Why can’t we die as people used to in the old days — the old-fashioned way — of old age? It is healthier for both the ill and the well.

“Legalized assisted suicide could become euthanasia for the vulnerable members of society," said Dr. John Lindberg, who practices locally. "Physicians subscribe to a code that cares for the patient, not taking away life. How soon will the right to die become the duty to die?”

Having taken the oath to ‘save’ lives, can the medical community ignore its conscience?

“Legalizing physician-assisted suicide puts patients in jeopardy. They need to trust doctors. It is true that dying is a personal issue, but assisted-suicide is not. The terminally ill cannot accomplish his/her demise in a vacuum," Lindberg explained.

It involves the patient’s doctor, psychiatrist, consultant physician and pharmacist who must fill the prescription. Due to conscience, many professionals may decline.

“Society will then have two groups of professionals. Those who comply with the law, and those who don’t,” Lindberg added.

What will happen to doctors who refuse to end a patient’s life? Are they criminals for breaking the law? Or being obedient to their conscience? Can trust be reciprocated among their colleagues?

“The provisions under I-1000 will be difficult to monitor, if not impossible. Not all patients are in a hospital, nursing facility or assisted living facility,” said Lindberg.

Who would have monitored my mother? She begged her two physicians to end her life; each knelt by her death bed and said, “I wish I could.” Cancer took its toll, eventually. Her pain was alleviated with medication, and the quality of her remaining days was sensible. If her demise had not succumbed to natural causes, I would not have the memories shared by the two of us.

She lived her last days in my home. Her presence unified my family. She looked forward to hearing about my day at work, and I looked forward to her childhood stories. She couldn’t speak much, but she had the most contagious smile ever — a perfect smile.

In dying naturally, she gifted us with the walk of compassion, revived us from our emotional grave and restored a touch of humanness – the emotional fabric of our world.

Did I know that her stories would result in writing a manuscript of 300 pages? What a legacy she left for my family to own.

Needless to say, her death diminished much in the rest of us.

To live or not to live is not limited to adherents of ‘Thou shall not kill,’ or to conscientious physicians who have taken the oath to 'save’ lives.

We are all travelers. From birth until death, we travel between the eternities. What right do we have to interfere with anyone’s sojourn?

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