PERRY: We all have a right to die with dignity; time for Colorado legislature to ensure that

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 odd that Colorado became judicious in its attitudes about gay rights and marijuana before it came to grips with offering dignity to our terminally ill friends and family.

It would seem that out of a host of thorny social issues, offering assisted suicide for the terminally ill would essentially be politically low-hanging fruit.

sufferI thought the weird controversy that clings to the issue was over when the infamous Dr. Jack Kevorkian was snuffing people in his car. As a nation, I thought we decided that offering a truly peaceful, dignified death to those in horrific pain and unable to end their own lives was a noble pursuit, whereas having people sort of gas themselves to death in the back of Kevorkian’s van was anything but dignified. His methodology was anything but compassionate. It was cruelly distracted.

But the discussion surrounding the wisdom of allowing someone dying to end their lives relatively comfortably and peacefully, to prevent a prolonged, agonizing and terrifying inevitable demise, was bulletproof. What clouded the issue is that fact that the drugs or substances that best achieve a comfortable, peaceful death must come from the very profession sworn and legally bound to never hurry it.

The mental acrobatics around that issue were solved in Oregon in 1997 when complicated rules were laid out for how a terminally ill patient could request a prescription for a lethal dose of medication to end their own lives.

It’s been almost 20 years since then. Only two other states, Vermont and Washington — the usual progressive suspects — have followed suit. And still, thousands of Americans each year suffer prolonged, agonizing, terrorizing deaths because lawmakers in most states don’t have the courage or the wisdom to confront and resolve something that’s difficult to deal with, but simple to solve. Colorado lawmakers have now stepped up to the plate with House Bill 1135, which would create a system for assisted suicide much like that in Oregon.

Proponents 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, give so little thought to.

Here’s the thing that makes the bill so uncomfortable. It rips the Band-Aid off the lie that most of us die a “peaceful” death, even those whose diseases bring our lives to unexpected, accelerated ends. 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 bill 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.

It makes sense to me. I relish almost every minute of what is truly a charmed life. I am one of the lucky that will reach the end and be able to say, “I did it all,” even though I could live for centuries and still not get enough. But I know, too, what inhumane pain is. I’m one of the unlucky few who suffer migraines that can rack your body with agony that knows no limits. It is consuming in a way I don’t think anything else could be. If I faced a life that was nothing but that unceasing pain, there is no doubt I would choose death. But to choose a quiet, easy inevitable death before the thrashing pain sets in for good? That takes a level of courage and acceptance that only the terminally ill can muster. The most difficult and important decision of their lives.

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 suicides, This death-with-dignity bill 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. Any else is inhumane.

Reach editor Dave Perry at 303-750-7555 or dperry@aurorasentinel.com

  • Willam Nat

    I’d like to mention suicide contagion. Locations where assisted-suicide has been legalized have seen a substantial increase in the suicide rates for young people and others. A US Centers for Disease Control report stated that suicide for Oregon people 35-64 went up 49% in the years 1999 to 2010, years that Oregon’s had legal assisted suicide. The national average increase for the same time period was only 28%.
    Do you want to leave children with the idea that suicide is an acceptable solution to the problems of life?

    • Bart Windrum

      Bogus argument, William. You’re conflating self-directing the end of a life that death is imminently closing in on via one or several terminal conditions with some generalized “problems of life” scene. Surely you know better?…

      • Willam Nat

        What the heck does your comment mean? Did the computer scramble your words?

    • Retiree

      William, do us a favor and link us to that report on Oregon suicides. And then could you show us any research you base your statement on that there is any causal relationship between assisted suicide in that state and people who independently kill themselves through means other than prescribed by the law.

      • Willam Nat
        • Retiree

          Thanks for sharing. I see that it is trying to link high-profile suicides (like Marilyn Monroe) and the copy-cat effect to what is happening in Oregon. Tell me, do you know whether Oregon does extensive newspaper coverage of assisted suicides every time they happen that would prompt these ‘illegal’ suicides to happen. Do we have evidence showing that Oregon suicides tend to come not long after each assisted suicide that takes place? Without that kind of information, I don’t see any causal relationship.

          I have friends in Oregon who have said for years (going way back before this law) that suicide rates were high there. I’ve never been suicidal, but I really have a hard time imagining some scenario that goes something like “Oh God, I want to end my life, and now that Oregon has an assisted suicide law, that makes me want to end it even more than ever!” Suicide seems much more spontaneous to me. But again, I have never been in that position.

          I don’t know if you have ever had a relative dying in extreme pain over a long period of time and they were begging to have an early end to it all. They’ve lost all of their dignity, they are screaming and desperate. I have been through that experience, and it’s not at all pretty. I felt that I failed that person in their moment of greatest need. It’s not a scenario that I would dream of for me or my spouse who feels as I do. Absent such a law in Colorado, we may consider a move to some place that is friendlier to the needs of dying people.

  • indiana

    LOL…WELL PERRY I’ll be more than happy to pull the plug when you’re ready.

    • Retiree

      Pretty unoriginal and unfunny.

      • indiana

        Who gives a crap what a fat old alcoholic geezer has to say…by the way monkey boy Obama is going target your retirement …just what you voted for. You just can’t fix a stupid programmed liberal…stupid to the bone.

        • reader

          please elaborate on your racists vile
          message Indiana. How is OUR
          President Obama going to target
          your retirement.
          It’s the republicans who want to put
          social security in the stock market.

          • indiana

            Obviously you don’t read…that’s why you’re a stupid cow. READ FOOL on what’s happening in your government…it’s not my job to post WH proposed actions that Obama said he was going to take….READ FOOL READ.

          • reader

            stupid cow and fool — you really can’t be serious and are
            just trolling for reponses.
            I feel sorry for you.

          • ryecatcher

            I’m with you reader. Indiana is a vile fool spewing his verbal sewage like a middle school delinquent. He is to be pitied.

          • Retiree

            Click on his name and see his posts. Truly a 4th rate troll. And he has over 6300 posts of this kind of crap. Can’t he find better things to do with his time?

          • ryecatcher

            Indiana. A pitiful fool and miserable bigot. What a pathetic example for the republican party.

        • pat

          As far as President Obama targeting your retirement. . .
          Next week the Senate Budget Committee is holding
          it’s first hearing on social security benefits.
          their plan is to declare a CRISIS and insist the only way
          out is to cut benefits.
          Social security is NOT boing broke – has a 1.7 million
          dollar surplus.
          So watch and see what the republicans are planning
          on the Senate Budget Committee as far as social
          security is concerned before you throw stones at
          President Obama.

          • indiana

            ABSOLUTE LIE…..nothing has a surplus when we are 18 trillion in debt…it’s your criminal math PERIOD…so just shut your monkey mouth.

          • ryecatcher

            The absolute lie is Indiana a foul mouthed little boy. He gives monkeys a bad name.

    • ryecatcher

      Indiana a hateful pitiful wretch without morals dripping with hate and anger. He pulls the plug on himself the fool.

  • doxology

    I would be honored to live in a state where compassion and wisdom abide. What kind of uncivilized society allows loved ones to suffer needlessly? In response to Indiana’s comments: you give us a fine example of cruelty. In response to William Nat’s comments: if a person wants to commit suicide, he or she will commit suicide. We can have no idea what kind of psychological or physical suffering that person is experiencing. To Dave Perry: well said, and I’m so sorry to hear about your migraines. Please keep standing up to the bullies who seem to populate the comment sections of your columns. There are many of us who applaud your words but do not join in with the haters.

    • Willam Nat

      Since I stand against giving one person the legal right to intentionally kill another, I’m a hater? Where did you come across your particular version of morality? Professor Singer of Princeton or Dr. Mengele?

      • Retiree

        You’re not a hater, William, but if I freely want to end my life, and I want to be assisted in that, the person assisting me shouldn’t be punished for helping me through that process.

  • D.M.DeWeese

    Your life, your death, your choice.
    My life, my death, my choice, period!

    • Willam Nat

      No it’s not just “my, my, my” The law also effects people with dementia. I’ve worked with dementia patients and they often ask to die. If this was legal, 90% could have been murdered legally.

      • Retiree

        Do you have evidence that is happening in any states with right-to-die laws. Given the process they have to go through in Oregon, someone in full dementia would be unable to participate.

      • Jackalope Wilson

        Not at all true. You should probably learn something about the legislation before you knock it. A person has to be found competent and eligible/terminal by two different doctors. They have to ask for it twice with fifteen days in between. They have to submit a written request signed by two witnesses certifying that the person knows what s/he is doing. They have to administer the medication themselves.

        Now what were you saying?

  • Joe Hardhat

    There are compelling sociological and theological arguments against euthanasia or physician assisted suicide, whereas the arguments in support are misguided at best. Individual sufferers may experience the tender mercies of a benevolent God in the midst of their suffering. However for society as a whole there is the “slippery slope” argument, which includes euthanasia to alleviate emotional suffering brought about by mistreatment or neglect of caregivers.
    http://www.theologymatters.com/TM110321.pdf