ELDER MUSIC: 1957 Yet Again
Some Old People's Household Habits

Death With Dignity and the Supreme Court Nominee

It's not often I can combine an age-related post with a political one as directly as I can today so I'm taking advantage of it while the opportunity is here.

When I moved to Oregon nearly seven years ago, the state's Death With Dignity Act played no part in my choice although I knew it existed.

Having had plenty of time now to look into it and think about it, I am relieved to have this law. Understand that not just any person can request the drugs and die willy-nilly. There are restrictions:

”A physician must determine that the patient has less than six months and a second opinion is required,” reported my late friend, Pulitzer Prize-winner Saul Friedman in these pages in 2010. “The patient must make repeated requests, waiting at least 15 days between requests.

“If these procedures are followed, an Oregon physician can prescribe the life-ending drugs, which may be taken with or without a doctor present.”

Personally, I think the rules are too restrictive but they are better than not and changing public perception is a slow process.

Oregon was the first state to enact a death with dignity law and since the act was passed 1997, and through 2015, 991 patients have used it to end their lives. Here's the chart:

DWDAoregon

It gives me comfort to know that if my end days are filled with pain, for example, and my days are short, there is recourse for me. It's my life; no one else should have the right to prevent me from making this choice.

Last week, President Donald Trump nominated federal appeals court judge, Neil Gorsuch, to fill the Supreme Court chair left empty when Justice Antonin Scalia died a year ago.

That, I believe, is an illegitimate nomination that should not stand given that Congressional Republicans barely acknowledged President Barack Obama's choice, Merrick Garland, let alone held hearings on him. But let's let that go for today and take a look at who Judge Gorsuch is.

As the Washington Post reported last week, in the year the judge was appointed to the federal bench, 2006:

”...he published a book titled The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. The front cover looks almost like a Tom Clancy novel, with purple all-caps block text set against a black background. But the book itself is a deep, highly cerebral overview of the ethical and legal debate surrounding the practices.”

Gorsuchdeaathwithdignitybookcover

I have not read the book so I am relying on the WaPo reporter, Derek Hawkins, who writes that Gorsuch opposes assisted suicide, euthanasia and death with dignity laws because “the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

Really? Even if the life-taking is done by the person whose life it is? I don't think that is at all as obvious as he makes it sound. The Washington Post again:

”Some of Gorsuch’s sharpest criticisms were directed at one of his fellow jurists, Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

“Posner has written in favor of permitting physician-assisted suicide, arguing that the government should not interfere with a person’s decision to take his or her own life, especially in cases where the patient is terminally ill.

“Gorsuch rejected that view, writing it would 'tend toward, if not require, the legalization not only of assisted suicide and euthanasia, but of any act of consensual homicide.'”

Huh? How does that follow? It gets even less rational as his argument continues:

”Posner’s position, he writes, would allow 'sadomasochist killings' and 'mass suicide pacts,' as well as duels, illicit drug use, organ sales and the 'sale of one’s own life.'

“Gorsuch concludes his book by envisioning a legal system that allows for terminally ill patients to refuse treatments that would extend their lives, while stopping short of permitting intentional killing.”

Judge Gorsuch is a young man - 49 now, 39 when his book was published. Aside from physicians trained in science and health and such people as hospice workers, I do not believe that younger adults have any idea what old age is really like. You cannot know until you get there.

Unless he has suffered through a prolonged period of debility and ongoing, untreatable pain, Judge Gorsuch cannot possibly imagine why an old person would find themselves arriving at a place where they know it is time for them to go and even yearn for it.

There are other good reasons to oppose Judge Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court but from my perch here as what a reporter at the Baltimore Sun once called “a bloviator on all things ageing,” this one issue is enough.

Particularly so because if he is confirmed and in addition, Congress follows through on President Trump's recent vow to the overturn the 1954 law restricting political speech by tax-exempt churches, we are heading deep toward Christian control of government.

The New York Times quoted Trump about that vow last week:

“'Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us,' Mr. Trump told religious leaders at the National Prayer Breakfast. 'That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.'”

These may never come to pass. But to potentially lose death with dignity laws while gaining unfettered political speech for religious organizations combined with the new survey showing that one-third of Americans believe a citizen must be a Christian to be a real American – well, you tell me what that means.

Comments

Open for discussion . . .

In the mid-60s I was in a prelaw school and was somewhat surprised to read that suicide was indeed homicide; a criminal offense. Any one individual who jumps off a bridge, takes too many sleeping pills, drives a car of a cliff was homicidal. Additionally, any physician that would assist in a suicide was then considered an accessory to the fact.

Any attorneys out there who care to comment?

Obviously public thinking on this issue has changed since the mid-60s and I think it is way too important leave exclusively to law.

Republicans (not all, of course) say they want less government control in a person's life. Then they want to make decisions about health issues (especially for women!) If they want less government control, then they should allow a person to make educated choices as to what happens to their bodies, and that would also include assisted suicide. I wish Florida allowed assisted suicide, as I don't want to die a piece at a time, slowly, painfully, trapped in a body that just wants the final rest. I'm not there yet, but when I get there, I want to be in control, not have some legislative body in Washington, DC, who knows nothing about me, making that decision that I have to linger no matter what.

No one, especially the government, has the right to tell me what I can do with my own body.

This law is one that was enacted by religious zealots who think they have the right to save the souls of every living creature. It is outdated and irrational. The slippery slope that Judge Gorsuch implied hasn't happened in Oregon. He was throwing up a straw man to justify his prejudice.

If I decide that my life is one of constant pain and lacking and purpose or enjoyment and I commit suicide, what is the law going to do? Convict me of homicide and put my ashes in prison?

I agree with Darlene a hundred percent but I also think that people who do not live in one of the five U.S. states that have passed death with dignity acts should be required to resort to guns or rat poison or jump off a tall building to end their lives.

And actually, depending on health and/or physical debility, people who are ready to go sometimes can't even do those things without help and no one would want to involve a loved one in the act.

We are indeed on a slippery slope that is being encouraged by Christians who believe they can speak for all of us. Going to reblog this. Thanks.

I love Darlene's view on the punitive measures the government might take when an old person decides to die. It's all part of the attitude the Christian Right has about the soul, and yes, they have a right to their view. But I don't buy into their beliefs about abortion or the right to die. I'll keep my opinions on those to issues to myself, and they should too!

I don't really like to ponder what it means that one-third of Americans might apply a religious test to American citizenship. It seems to me that nothing good can come of holding such a belief. Not only does it imply denial of rights to those who believe differently, but fuels the culture wars that are leading to the oppression and punishment of so many people for so many reasons, and the growth in the numbers of young people who doubt evolution, the earth being more than 6,000 years old, and climate change. The pseudoscientific beliefs pushed by people like Ken Ham, who opened the Ark Encounter theme park last year, have monetized a system of thinking that threatens to take us back to the Dark Ages or forward to world annihilation. I'd be interested to know whether Gorsuch aligns himself with much of the same thoughts as Ham and his supporters.

Three requests, 15 days apart, just to make sure you are taking your own death seriously enough?
How much pain must someone endure before the legal system says "You've had enough, go ahead and end your suffering?

So Grouch believes that “the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.” However, to quote Slate (31 Jan 2017) regarding the death penalty, he "divulged no qualms about its constitutionality and will probably resist efforts to limit its application." He claims it's a state matter.

So much for "always wrong."

Neil Gorsuch speaks from both sides of his mouth and is very scary.

Any lawyers out there, asked one post ? Personally, I am seeking a reliable Guardian Angel to be at my side from this day forward !!

In the state where I currently reside, death by suicide is legal. I am less than thrilled to know that.

I understand that , here, there is little or no protection, no legal recourse available for the family, loved ones, survivors of a patient suicide if they find it hard to believe assisted suicide was requested by the deceased in their absence.

If visitors to, say, a "nursing home" find the patient lifeless, can they 100 percent rely on a doctor and "two witnesses" stating that the patient requested instant relief ?

These are scary times. Telling UN-truths appears to be coming the norm.

In my old age, have arrived at the conclusion that its always difficult to draw a line between religion and politics at the State level or any governmental level.

Obviously, this topic is hotly contested. We live under the rule of law. If its against a law then we should not do it if we want to avoid the penalty. With suicide, of course its a personal decision, but if someone assists the suicide then it will be considered murder or manslaughter in many places.

My husband who is 88 frequently says I should pull the plugs if he become dependent on machines. I've told him No, I will not. Never. Not because of the law, but because it is against my principles. I have great difficulty putting an animal down, even an old sick animal. Heck, I have difficulty killing mice.

Turning off the machines when there is no hope is a different issue. My sister had a massive stroke in January, and was on machines. My nephew finally made the decision to let her go. It was not easy and they are Catholic so he had to deal with prolife issues.

Of course there are instances where some religious "practices" cross the law line. Does assisted suicide fit this? I'm glad I am not God.

On the other hand, if enough people accept that a law should be changed, then it will be changed as happened with Roe versus Wade.

I do think assisted suicide, like abortion, should be left up to individuals and is not a federal issue.

As for the judge, I am not concerned with his past rulings. Trump could have nominated someone far worse.

Here in Colorado, with a brand new DWD law just passed, major hospital chains are opting out (for religious reasons), yet their doctors, if off the premises, may still write prescriptions. (Of course once you're hostpitalized, you're at the mercy of a hospitalist, not your own doctor.) Doctors are not required to honor your request, nor are pharmacists required to fill your prescription if you get one. Family members, depending on their faith, may hinder rather than help you, and no one is legally bound to abide by the provisions of your advance directive. By the time you know you want to avail yourself of the option, you may be too ill to jump through all these hoops, since you can't even make the request until two doctors have agreed you are terminally ill and have less than 6 months to live.

This is a slippery slope?? It strikes me as a very rocky, difficult journey filled with obstacles. Or like a gift given with one hand and taken away with the other.

If it isn't obvious that the Trump administration is determined to overturn not only Obama's legislation, but the cultural changes that have occurred (especially on the West coast) in the last 30 years, then it should be obvious to most people now. Your first clue regarding the temperament of Trumpians, would have to be in a SuperBowl commercial that I saw last night advertising a show featuring tanks. In the commercial (just Google "teensy house and tanks" to see it, a couple is shown talking about a "teensy house", much like the show "Tiny House Nation", when a tank comes out of nowhere to demolish it. Later, some obnoxious, rich, decadent, wine drinking, housewife types, (satirizing another reality show), are shown fighting when a tank destroys their living room. This commercial is probably the best metaphor that I can think of to describe what the Trumpians want to do: destroy the left ("tiny houses", solar energy, sustainability, etc. and every, single cultural belief that the left stands for, while also destroying the perceived decadence, and immorality of the "elites", which they believe has ruined the country. They will destroy everything that the left has held near and dear to them because they have the power to do so, including overturning Oregon assisted suicide laws. It'll be a sh*tshow of epic proportions, but no less irrational than the left's support of special interest groups while totally abandoning the struggles of the working class and leaving them vulnerable to the snake oil charms of Trump.

Washington state---where I live---also has such a law.

One provision of a legal document which my husband and I had our lawyer prepare states that I don't ever want to have a pacemaker inserted.

My reason is that it would keep me "alive" even if I were essentially brain dead, possibly for many, many years.

My husband and I do have a plan which we could use if we decided that the time is right. We have not recorded it anywhere.

Darlene, I'm sending you a high-five from Montreal.

10/10

You are a gem.

Isn't it amazing how these types love to meddle in superstition-driven gynecology, wishful thinking health plans, and end-of-life righteousness?

The result is always is that they devise many, many new hoops for the rest of us to jump through. Actual people get no privacy, no kindness, and no security.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if they had other hobbies, so the rest of us could enjoy some of that "freedom" they're always banging on about?

Washington, my home state, has a DWD law but both the hospitals and associated clinics do not participate as they are "religious" institutions. I have a living will stating my preferences, no extraordinary care etc. and find I keep adding specific instances. My children have stated their willingness to follow those instructions. I checked the records with the hospital and clinic my own doctor works with only to discover the copies of my living will seem to have disappeared, for the second time. I'd suggest checking with your own medical records to see if they have yours. I'm trying to find an MD reasonably close who will agree to partner my family and I with this. While I am not at all sure I would use it I am seriously po'd that it may be out of reach if I wanted it.

The hospitals and clinics in rural Walla Walla.

Like #annie, my first thought upon reading the judge's quote saying taking human life by private persons is always wrong was to think, "What about the death penalty?" Then I focused on 'private persons' and guessed that is his work around since it's the State that executes folks. Clever, these lawyers.

My totally red state will probably never make any access to lethal drugs from a doctor legal. Therefore, I have been carefully husbanding and even shamelessly asking for painkillers from friends who don't want them any more (which I know is illegal but not likely to be discovered). I'm mainly concerned about dementia as opposed to debilitating pain. I want to be able to spare my family my care. The big question is, of course, can I do it before I get too far gone to make it happen?

My husband keeps a pistol and has said more than once that it's his insurance. I'm OK with that. His kids know it, too.

I hope Judge G has learned a thing or two over the past 10 years, but, I doubt it.

D#$&! I'd written a comment and my computer ate it. Well, I probably shouldn't say most of what I said anyway, so maybe that's a good thing. I totally agree that my end-of-life should be MY end-of-life. The federal government is NOT invited!

I appreciate that I live in a DWD state. However, I also recognize that the law may not be available to me when I need it. What if I don't qualify, am too debilitated to jump through the hoops or too sick to swallow the pills/liquid? Like some others, I have considered that I may need "Plan C" when the time comes.

+1 to Death With Dignity.

64 yrs old widow, living on her own, family indifferent utility they want free childcare, and dreading lingering old age.

*unless* they want free childcare..

Tarzana, I thought about that "private persons" phrasing too, but decided it is Gorsuch's copout and that we private persons are the State. It just seems too convenient for him.

Thirty-six years ago on the last day of my mother's life, she was in the hospital being given heavy narcotics for pain and drifting in and out. She had a wonderful oncologist and care, but it was time for it to end. Her pulse was very weak and breathing almost nonexistent. The nurse came in with her next pain shot, but hesitated and quietly said to my dad, brother, grandmother and I that she was concerned the narcotic might stop her breathing. There was a DNR order in place. We all said, "please, no more pain." Mom got the shot and was gone in thirty minutes or less. Quietly, peacefully.

I hate to imagine what that scene might be like in hospitals today. Would she be given that shot? And I wonder, what if she could have chosen something like that sooner? Patients should be allowed to choose.

Not sure how I feel about DWD but with safeguards I think a person should be able to make that choice. Hospice, palliative care and pain management are all available to help DWD without actual suicide in many cases.

I highly recommend the book "Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande it is an excellent book on the medical situation with regard to aging. My SIL a geriatric physician says it is absolutely the best, most readable for the non-medical person, book on the subject.

to be a bit snarky... As I was reading this post my wife had the food channel on and they were showing programs about "Deep fry paradise" showing all kinds of very unhealthy food. I wondered if the government shouldn't call this "chef assisted suicide" and ban this too. After all our poor diets and obesity are killing us - not to mention the health care expense. :-)

As another Oregonian and one with chronic pain from injuries and osteoarthritis, a failing immune system that causes me to catch any bug I appreciate my DWD rights here.

I had an agreement with my former doctor, who retired the first of this year..my life has really changed since I had to return to the pain clinic I formerly went to. I used medical marijuana, with an Rx for it from my former doctor, for pain control and was able to cut way back on opiates. The pain clinic doctor, however, has decided she can't control the amount of dope I use therefor I have to show clean UAs in order to get the opiate that her prescribing 18 years ago got me addicted to..addicted chemically if not an addict. There was no reasoning with her nor is she eager to increase the opiate I now take to cover the additional pain, sleeplessness, nausea and lack of hunger that I now have..things using a simple canna cap, which I made myself from grapeseed oil and marijuana dealt with.

I suspect the doctor is a secret Republican. Thats what I get by being honest in my medical chart-I thought it was important for me to tell my new doctor about my marijuana use, she put it into the records that any doctor in the system can read, en viola-the pain clinic now knows all.

I neglected to ask the new doctor her thoughts on DWD but will do so my next visit. If she can't sign on, I guess I'll go looking again..took me 3 months to find this doctor!

Sorry for the venting but Im so frustrated, not to mention sleep deprived and in pain.

Sometimes life sucks.

Elle

Elle, I hear you. I also have osteoarthritis and degenerative spinal issues although I don't think I'm quite where you are yet. I haven't tried marijuana (it's legal in my state as is DWD) but I've become more open to the idea. I think I've learned one thing from your story: if I do decide to give it a try, I may not mention it to my physician. Apparently, it may not pay to be honest in this instance. We certainly need to be aware of what goes in our medical record and the implications. I have a relatively new doctor also and need to check out where she stands on DWD.

I understand that drug abuse is a problem nationwide, but it is just plain WRONG to treat everyone who is in pain and needs relief like a criminal. But that's where we are, and I expect it may get more draconian under The Orange Apparition (the "law and order" guy is big on giving more power to agencies like ICE and the DEA).

Re the Resistance: Betsy DeVos is totally clueless and unqualified to be Secretary of Education. She couldn't answer most of the serious questions she was asked in her confirmation hearings. She claimed to be "confused" a lot, and she probably was since she knows nothing about public education except that she wants to eradicate it. I hope long-time Department employees/career educators will find ways to block the most destructive moves she tries to make. Between her, Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions and the rest of the Apparition's crew, we are indeed headed back to the '50s--an era I was very glad to have in what I thought was the rear-view mirror. Silly me!

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