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:
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.”
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.