Echoing Paranoia

Yesterday marked the six month anniversary of our state’s Death With Dignity Act. Compassion & Choices of Washington, a group that works to make sure the law works for both patients and doctors, announced that 16 Washington residents have passed away since taking advantage of the new law, 11 of whom actually used the prescription to control the time and manner of their passing. None of these events are cause for celebration, but merely a recognition that the terminally ill in this state have more choices than the residents of 48 other states, and that’s something that we should be proud of here.

Claudia Rowe covered the milestone nicely for the PI, but as she points out, opponents of the new law still aren’t doing a very good job of dealing with reality:

But no number of physician-assisted deaths — however small it may be — is small enough for opponents of the law. Eileen Geller, a hospice nurse and spokeswoman for True Compassion Advocates, believes that merely discussing the issue implies that hastening death is a valid option for the sick and vulnerable.

“It’s not just the few who have used this, but all the other Washingtonians who are receiving the message that they should die prematurely and unnaturally,” Geller said. “I’ve received calls from people who are worried and wondering, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t receive treatment. Maybe I should give up.'”

I have a very simple suggestion for Geller. Tell these people the truth. Tell them that giving people choices is in no way forcing them into a particular choice. Tell them that the law is not meant in any way to encourage people to die prematurely and unnaturally. Tell them that the law is meant for people who have very strong feelings about being able to control the time and place of their passing.

What’s most frustrating about this is that the reason that Washingtonians are “receiving the message that they should die prematurely and unnaturally” is not because of the law, but because people like Eileen Geller spent much of last year misleading people into thinking that that’s what the law was meant to do. It’s as if we pass health care reform this year, and then next year Sarah Palin finds that people keep telling her they’re worried about imaginary “Death Panels” and blames that phenomenon on Obama.

It’s one thing to be – like Palin – dishonest for the sake of your political prospects and potential income streams. It’s another thing altogether to be dishonest out of pure paranoia. If there are large numbers of people in this state having sleepless nights about the Death With Dignity law, it’s not the fault of the law. It’s the fault of those like Geller who act as if they’ll break out into hives if they simply tell the truth about what this law does and doesn’t do.


  1. 1

    Alki Postings spews:

    Slightly confused. Isn’t the “Death with Dignity” idea a Republican position?

    Republicans want the government out of our lives and want us to have CHOICE and FREEDOM to do whatever we want with our lives. Right?

    Supposedly we don’t want the “government” telling us what job to get, where to live, etc. Of course! But then why do so many Republicans back the government telling me when I can die, making it “illegal” for me to choose my own time? Isn’t that MY choice? How can the government tell me I’m not allowed to die when I want? That seems like a WEE bit of government control, over my LITERAL life.

    Or why can the government tell me what drugs I can use (gov tells me cigs and vodka are ok, marijuana isn’t). The government tells me who I can marry. The government tells me how I’m allowed to sex (literally what positions). Shouldn’t Republicans be AGAINST all that?

    Isn’t that literal government control over my “actual” life, marriage and sex. How is that NOT government control?

    Or is it not a philosophy (government control is bad) but simply a child like “I like certain stuff and I don’t like other stuff” ideal? The government CAN control things you don’t like, but shouldn’t control things you DO like? I can understand that emotionally, but it’s not a philosophical position (like being for free speech, even speech you don’t like).

  2. 3

    Alki Postings spews:

    @2 – So we can’t have freedom, because someone could lie or cheat and use it against us? I should let the government provide and choose my job for me? Because otherwise someone could LIE and cheat and cost me my private sector job of choice? What? The government HAS to control my life because someone lied and scammed someone? Crazy liberal! I don’t agree with you. Give me my freedom! Yes freedom comes at a risk, but unlike YOU I choose that risk over having the government tell me WHEN I’m allowed to die. Socialist! ;-)

  3. 6

    SeattleJew's Sockpuppet spews:


    Troll is right .. if you have enough moolah in the US you can buy any sort of “health care.” Look at Michael Jackson, he even bought his own death with dignity! Stevey Jobs apprently got hisself a liver .. presumably meaning someone else did not.

    Of course in Troll-land we keep dead folks breathing and pissing as long as there fund last even when, a la the schiavo case0 their brians are gone but they still have money.