Death with Dignity: A matter of choice

One I-1000 supporter said she could face almost anything if she knew she had enough money for a bus ticket home. This statement encapsulated her feelings about Washington’s Death with Dignity Act. It is — if you are terminally ill and suffering from pain and loss of control — like a “bus ticket home.” It is the peace of mind knowing that you have some control, a choice in the manner of how and when to die.

Initiative 1000, Washington’s Death with Dignity initiative, is primarily a matter of choice. It is about options, it is about a spiritual comfort, and it is knowing in one’s final days, in circumstances of extreme suffering, there is a safe, legal and medical way to end the pain.

As a volunteer signature gatherer early in the campaign, I was amazed to hear people repeatedly say, “Everyone in America has a gun and can end their life whenever they want — this law is unnecessary.” Obviously they weren’t thinking of the friends and family that would have to live with their violent result.

I-1000 gives mentally competent, terminally-ill patients a more compassionate option by allowing them to have an honest conversation with their doctors about what they want. It allows them to choose to say goodbye to their friends and family.

Some people say that modern medicine can control all pain, but there are illnesses for which there simply is no adequate pain control. My mother died from pancreatic cancer, an elusive cancer also called “the silent killer” because when finally detected, the chances of survival are slim. Pancreatic cancer can be one of the most painful deaths.

My mother was fortunate to have access to hospice care and she died at home with her family. Deteriorating with the pain, she told us that she didn’t want to suffer. No one does. Helping her to end her life, on her own terms, would have put everyone around her in legal limbo. After seeing her last days, I became dedicated to legalizing more humane end-of-life options.

Once you have seen someone you love suffer, you will give up a lot to change the law so that others don’t have to endure such tragic last days. I have given a year of my life full time, without pay, to campaign for Washington’s Death with Dignity Act because I believe so strongly in this choice.

In more than a decade of experience with the Death with Dignity Act in Oregon, about 1,000 people have legally requested the life-ending medication, but fewer than 300 chose to self-administer the medication. Those who chose not to take the medication had the peace of mind of knowing that they had the liberty to end their life when they decided. I-1000 is about compassion, it is about choice, and it is about liberty.

Those that disagree are free to not opt to use the Death with Dignity option, but they shouldn’t take that choice away from those who do. Please join me in supporting I-1000 and to reinforce the liberty, independence and strong self-determination that Northwesterners have always been known for.

Kristin Kennell is a volunteer for Yes on 1000 – the Death with Dignity Initiative. Visit www.yeson1000.org.

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