Dr. Kevorkian, I Presume

I can’t say I have ever personally experienced the death of someone important to me, and I’m lucky for that. But I know many of you reading this article have. I can’t even begin to imagine life without my mom, dad, either of my brothers or any of my friends. I don’t want to and neither do any of you.
However, a week after Election Day, Washington voters had to spend some serious time considering such a situation. Last Tuesday, Washington voters approved Initiative 1000, making it the second state after Oregon to approve medically assisted suicide. The measure passed by a margin of 58 to 42 percent.
What could possibly convince people to support assisted suicide? Some supporters, led by former Democratic Gov. Booth Gardner, say I-1000 provides a compassionate way for terminally ill people to die. Gardner has Parkinson’s disease, a disorder with no cure that causes tremors and frozen limbs. Gardner, while not eligible for I-1000, pushed for the measure because he understood why other people might want it as an option.
Opponents of the measure, like the Catholic Church, said assisted suicide is a dangerous move that devalues human life. Another concern was that depressed or emotionally vulnerable people who worry that they’ve become a burden might exploit the procedure.
However, before a person can actually qualify for assisted suicide, I-1000 creates a lengthy consideration process. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, declared competent and a resident in the state of Washington. The patient would be required to make two separate oral requests 15 days apart, and submit a written request witnessed by two people, one a relative and one unrelated person. Two doctors would then have to certify that the applicant indeed has a terminal condition with six months or less to live. Once all that is done, the patient would then administer the lethal drug to his or herself in the presence of the doctor.
Some students around campus found little issue with the matter of assisted suicide.
“Personally, I don’t have a problem with it, as long as there is consent,” said Jackie Hartfield, a second-year political science major.
Other students felt muddled about their positions on assisted suicide. Jason Sarkozi, a third-year mechanical engineering major, admitted, “It’s a tough situation … if there is a chance to keep the person alive, then [I’d oppose using assisted suicide].”
Some felt more of a personal connection to the measure.
“I don’t have a problem with it,” said an anonymous second-year film and media studies major, “But [my grandma has cancer] and I know she wouldn’t choose to end her life. I don’t think I’d be able to support that kind of action if it were her, even if she wanted it.”
This is one of the rare instances where I’d agree with a religious organization; the matter of assisted suicide definitely knocks down the value of human life a few notches. People are, in some sense of the phrase, putting a price on their own lives—or deaths. But of course, there are cancer patients who endure more pain on a daily basis than most of us can imagine. People should have a right to decide what to do with their lives if they are of a sound mind.
Still, I don’t really know how I’d react if my mother was fatally sick and told me she wanted to end her own life. People can commit suicide just fine without a doctor to hand them a lethal syringe, and I don’t think it’s something that needs to be government-operated. Some could argue we are now literally giving the government control over our lives.
There is the matter of families persuading or forcing terminally ill family members to sign up for assisted suicide for monetary gain through a will. And of course there is the possibility of depressed people taking advantage of it, though the qualification process sounds almost airtight.
Reaching a final verdict on assisted suicide is difficult and if one opposes it, it should be with some hesitancy. People can kill themselves easily – too easily – these days, or ask someone to help them. We see it all the time in the news, and it’s always sad. The legitimization of suicide should make anyone feel uncomfortable, even with an airtight qualification procedure; however, it’s also arguably inhumane to deny relief to those in horrendous pain. That being said, turning death into a government-operated business should make us all feel a little uneasy.

AE Anteater is a third-year English major. He can be reached at emailremoved@uci.edu.