Column: Death by prescription

By Angela Loiacono

The lives of many terminally ill patients will now be in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court. According to Reuters, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Bush administration can overturn an Oregon state law allowing doctors to help terminally ill patients commit suicide. Last time I checked, the role of a doctor was to help save lives, not help end lives.

This Oregon law, passed in 1997, has allowed the deaths of over 170 people by physician-assisted suicide. Oregon stands as the only state in the United States with such a law. Seems to me that if all the other 49 states in our country don’t allow it, neither should Oregon. I’m even having trouble with the idea that the law, called the Death with Dignity Act, went through the state legislature. What makes people think that helping people kill themselves should be protected under state law?

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In 2001, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft stretched the federal law so that it might overrule the state law, according to Reuters. Following this decision, Ashcroft was accused of abusing his power, and a saga began. After a roller coaster of court appeals, the Supreme Court has stepped in and will make a decision on the case. Someone needs to thank God for that. I sincerely hope that the justices of the Supreme Court have their heads on straight, unlike the lawmakers of Oregon.

Honestly, I think I might have developed a new fear of the Oregonians who voted to pass this law – twice. Although the law states that a patient must get certification from two doctors who are assured that the patient is of sound mind and has less than six months to live, it doesn’t make assisted suicide OK. No matter what angle you look at this from, it is one person helping another person kill him or herself. How is that right – let alone legal by law? By writing a prescription for lethal drugs, a doctor can give a terminally ill person the opportunity to end their life. How can doctors watch people kill themselves, knowing that they gave the patient the means to do so?

I also don’t give a damn who certifies that someone is of sound mind. If someone wants to end their own life, they aren’t of sound mind. I fully understand that illness and disease can be painful and difficult, but it’s not the decision of a human to take the breath of life. Miracles are witnessed every day in hospitals across the world. Doctors swear that people will never recover, and days later, they are on their way to health. New drugs are being discovered every day, and six months is a long time. You can’t expect a miracle if you don’t leave time for one to happen. These people deserve the chance to live the rest of their life and be taken when God feels it is their time.

No one will ever understand why someone has to suffer from an illness. But it’s all for a reason. They have a purpose in life, and maybe they suffer so that others may witness their strength and be inspired. Or maybe, a patient’s illness brings a family closer together. Everything and everyone serves a purpose.

For the life of me I can’t understand the reasoning behind this law. In retrospect, the state of Oregon is allowing doctors to become accomplices in the most selfish decision someone can make. If people want to kill themselves, you just don’t turn your back on them and hand them a weapon. You stand at their side, over their bed and be there for them in any way that will make their lives livable.