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Pill Box


Xavier Blackwell-Lipkind

For a long time, assisted suicide was not even considered as an alternative to terminal illness. Then Oregon passed a law allowing assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. That was in 1994. Sixteen years went by before the next state, Washington, passed a similar law. After that came Montana, Vermont, and, most recently, California. In 80 percent of these cases, assisted suicide is only available for patients who will be dead in under six months.
That leaves 45 states with no laws permitting assisted suicide. 45 states in which terminal patients cannot make the painfully personal choice to end their own lives. This is absurd, and it needs to change.
Make no mistake: Assisted suicide is a terrible choice to have to make. But for patients who have been bedridden for months, sometimes unable to form coherent sentences or control their bowel movements or urination, assisted suicide is the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
And no matter what lawmakers say, to vote against assisted suicide legislation is to be selfish and inconsiderate. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, nearly all legislators who voted against the California law cited religious beliefs as their major reasons for not supporting the bill. Religion is a right, but it is a right that can be abused. Lawmakers cannot impose their beliefs on others, let alone patients who are suffering through excruciating pain that nobody can begin to imagine. Just because a state senator is morally opposed to assisted suicide does not mean he or she can apply that belief to the diverse group of patients grappling with terminal illness.
Why, then, are religious lawmakers content with putting down their unhappy pets but not their unhappy fellow human beings? Is killing a beloved human different from killing a beloved dog? After all, many pet owners are willing to put down suffering pets even if they are not terminal. Bring a proposal to legalize assisted suicide for those in pain to your State Senate and you would be seen as a monster, a killer.
Where is the divide? What is the difference? Why are lawmakers unwilling to consider assisted suicide? Religion? Guilt? For some, the issue is death itself.
Of course, death is terrifying. According to the Huffington Post, this terror is, in essence, a fear of the unknown. Although we were nonexistent for billions of years before our births, all we have ever consciously known is life. In that context, death seems terrifying. On the other hand, most of us have never experienced the biting pain and fuzzy intellect faced by terminal patients every day.
Which is better: Spending months in a white hospital room, feeling like you're already gone, or having thirty painless minutes with friends and family at home before peacefully slipping into death?
Prolonging life for as long as possible has become the primary goal of the healthcare system today. Perhaps it's time to start thinking about death not as an enemy but as an option.

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