I don’t have any personal anecdotes to explain why I support I-1000, the Death With Dignity Initiative. Unlike Geov, I’ve never been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Unlike Goldy and Michael, I’ve never been beside a loved one whose once vibrant life was replaced by something barely recognizable in the time before their passing. And unlike Jesse, I’ve never had a job that put me so close to death and dying.
But I-1000 is personal for me. It can be personal for anyone. End of life situations can be complicated – they can be heart wrenching. And they are always unpredictable. Even as a healthy person in his 30s, I know that if I’m ever at a point where my death my imminent, the biggest tragedy for me might not be the death itself – death is inevitable and mostly out of one’s own hands – but finding out that the government is limiting the options I have because it doesn’t trust me with the ability to make my own choices.
We talk a lot about liberty when we discuss politics. Regardless of one’s particular orientation, we all tend to think that we’re coming from the standpoint of maximizing our own liberty. But while many talk about their liberty, not everyone follows the famous advice from Thomas Paine:
He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself.
This truism extends to a number of our political debates today, as we often see politicians and partisans hold two completely opposing viewpoints on a subject depending on whether or not they or someone else is affected by it. When it comes to the opposition to I-1000, what many people see as government protecting their liberty is nothing more than a restriction on the liberty of others. What they desire is a system where government makes our choices for us because the decisions are difficult and potentially painful. This is the real slippery slope of I-1000.
I-1000 opponents will often come up with scary stories within a law like this. They imagine scenarios of being coerced into taking one’s own life or being overcome by the feelings of being a burden. These types of scenarios exist, but I-1000 does not create them, nor would it make them more common. I-1000 does not cause the insurance companies to do the wrong thing or a relative to lust after your inheritance. But I-1000 does prevent those people from dictating the choices you make at the end of your life. I-1000 ensures that the decision about how you die can be made by you, and no one else. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying about the law or does not understand it.
Many people desire a higher authority who protects them from themselves. I have no problem with such beliefs. But where I do have a problem is when the people work to make their own personal higher authority the higher authority for everyone. Government should exist to create systems that protect people from the things that we can’t control as individuals – the environment, natural disasters, unexpected health problems, the shifting winds and complexities of the economy. But government should not exist to tell us what decisions we make at an individual level that relate to our own moral compass – unless of course those decisions directly impact the public at large. The opponents of I-1000 are crossing that line – attempting to make choices that should be left up to individuals and their loved ones, without government interference and without having to submit to anyone else’s religious doctrines.
This is why I-1000 is personal for me. I’ve seen a growing desire in this country to have government take on the role of moral nanny in many ways. The end result of such a movement is undoubtedly a loss of liberty and a loss of our desire to be free adults, fully responsible for our own choices. This is why I feel compelled to speak up and this is why I’m working so hard to make sure I-1000 is passed – even though I’m far from being in a situation where the law would ever apply to me. As Thomas Paine knew, and as we still understand today, protecting liberty is not just about protecting your own freedom, but making sure that you live in a society where everyone’s is protected.
Please vote Yes on I-1000.