Understanding the compassion, wisdom and common sense behind Colorado’s Proposition 106 isn’t difficult, but it demands many set aside a long list of misplaced fears, bad assumptions, misnomers and propaganda.
The state ballot question is about dying with dignity and in peace when death is near and inevitable. It’s not about “assisted suicide.” The choice and act of ending your life when the options are beyond dismal would be only yours. The only assistance here is that those who are diagnosed by at least two physicians to have less than six months to live, and who must ask at least twice for medication that painlessly ends life, and who are deemed to be mentally competent, can get the fatal prescription.
The rest is up to the patient as to how or even when to use the prescription and end suffering or maybe even prevent it.
Hopelessly ill people wracked with pain and ending their own lives isn’t something this measure would start. Lots of people choose to end their lives rather than face an end of unrelenting agony, gasping for last breaths in helpless fear. But too many end up violently or clumsily ending their lives with misguided pharmaceutical cocktails, guns or suffocation. Often they fail.
State lawmakers themselves have failed to pick through the thorny issue, and voters must now finish the job so that terminally ill friends and family can finish their lives in peace and comfort. This is nothing but another choice that already includes dying in a hospice or at home when the body simply gives out. This allows you to easily force it, when you want, if that makes more sense.
So now the discussion and decision must be handled by voters.
The hard work was actually done by lawmakers and residents in Oregon in 1997. That’s when complicated rules were laid out for how a terminally ill patient could request a prescription for a lethal dose of medication and end their own lives. It’s a model for this Colorado measure.
Proponents of Prop 106 want us to be brave in confronting our fears about what is as natural as being born: dying. It’s the one thing on Earth that binds us all together, yet something that Americans, generally, work so hard to ignore.
Opponents are working themselves into a state, creating all kinds of preposterous tales, and it’s because of irrational fear. Prop 106 makes us uncomfortable because it rips the Band-Aid off the lie that all of us die a “peaceful” death. Many do, but hardly all. Ask any health professional or loved one who’s been at the end of life with someone terrified and gasping for breath until they’re finally robbed of it. It’s not peaceful, it’s cruel.
It’s so cruel, that we don’t even put our dogs and cats through such torture. We mercifully and compassionately end their suffering and life when it’s clear what the alternative is. Why is something so natural and so easy to understand so difficult to accept, codify and talk about, prepare for?
The amendment doesn’t force anyone to participate in asking for a dignified, easier death. It only helps those and their families who have arrived at a place where it all makes sense. There is no worry that death squads will round up Alzheimer patients, as they do not even qualify for the consultation, even if they’re terminally ill. This is only about terminally ill people able to soundly make their own decision.
It’s cruel beyond comprehension that we would make such a decision even harder by complicating it with laws that leave people few options but to become outlaws or pursue violent, clandestine suicides. It no longer has to happen like that.
Proposition 106 is long overdue. It’s time to bring these changes to Colorado so we can talk about them, put them in place, and understand them for those who want or need them. Anything else is inhumane.