Portland’s Fourth Gift to the World: Death with Dignity

This week, Metroblogging sites around the globe are offering up gifts their city has given the world. Portland has thus far offered up The Simpsons, the SuicideGirls, and LiveJournal.

This might be the gift you dread– the socks, the underwear– it’s certainly not sexy like the Suicide Girls or funny like The Simpsons, but it’s also the gift that might last the longest and might bring you the most comfort in the long run. Or you could think it’s the worst gift ever and hustle back to the place of origin (in this case, our state government) and demand a refund. And that gift is Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which I know isn’t specifically Portland-based, but was undoubtably passed through the votes of all the (us) lefty, hippie, liberal, hands-off-my-body Portlanders and Portland types in the state, so I’m claiming it as a gift here– TAKE IT! You may not know you want it, you may never need it, but stick it in a drawer and know it’s there.

As somebody who very nearly lost a close relative to a possibly terminal disease a while ago and is also currently watching a formerly bright, strong, with-it grandparent descend into unrecognizableness, I’d like to think that it would be/could be/should be up to each and every one of us to decide, if our body or mind is beyond our control and deteriorating, that we are able to choose our time of leaving our body behind. And currently no other state, though some are close to changing that, has on the books a law that gives at least some allowance for choosing your own way out of this physical realm, though many other countries around the world do.

I missed this recent letter to the editor in the Oregonian that was published recently, but think it’s apt:

On the front of the Living section was an article about the challenges, risks and rewards of climbing Mount Everest. I would not for a minute question the right of anyone to engage in a dangerous, life-threatening, possibly suicidal undertaking, even if just for thrills, fame or money.
But if people who are healthy, usually young and often responsible for families are given this autonomy over their own lives, why shouldn’t the same right be given to those who are suffering and without hope?
Queen Victoria was one of the first women to receive anesthesia during childbirth. She thought it was marvelous, but her subjects were appalled. After all, women were supposed to suffer in childbirth. Attitudes do evolve.
Hopefully the right to “die with dignity” will sooner, not later, be accepted as a humane choice.

And as part of this gift, and in the spirit of the season, I would hope that you would remember those that are less fortunate than yourself, those that might be suffering, and might take a minute, no matter what your personal beliefs in this arena, to wish them peace and freedom from whatever shape their pain might take.

From November 26th to December 2nd, Metroblogging sites around the globe will be unveiling seven gifts their cities can share with the world – one gift a day for seven days.
To keep track, browse the numerous Metblogs, or check in periodically for updates at this post.
Tags: Metblogs7Gifts 7Gifts Metroblogging7Gifts

3 Comments so far

  1. Aaron B. Hockley (unregistered) on November 29th, 2006 @ 1:51 pm

    Very well stated…

    And I got a great laugh out of the advertisement that happened to load below this post: “The Nativity Story… Starts Friday!”

  2. JG (unregistered) on November 29th, 2006 @ 11:21 pm

    To play devil’s advocate about the “gift” of assisted suicide:

    The problem with the death with dignity is the following: it can be abused. Who is to say that a patient is in the right state of mind to make the decision to end his or her life? What if they are depressed, as many rightfully are? Two doctors have to evaluate any patient, but it is very difficult to always determine if one is depressed and of right mind. There has only been one patient who’s medical records have been released and he had a long history of depression, including one hospitalization, long before his terminal illness.

    Secondly, there are risks of the medication working. One patient took his drugs to kill himself, and then survived.

    Finally, it is also very difficult to determine how long a patient who is “terminal” has to live. Who’s to say if they have less than the 6 month window required to live? Doctors often label a patient with that amount of time to allow a patient the option of assisted suicide. Might there be a slippery slope towards less and less terminal patients allowed suicide? (After all, aren’t we all terminal?) Would this then result is family members, hospital staff, etc, pushing the old, demented, those who can’t care or speak for themselves into ending their lives?

    All I wanted to say is that I wouldn’t be so quick to judge Physician assisted suicide as a gift to the world. It is a complicated issue that the vast majority of the public has not learned about and explored. It is one thing to know how is it supposed to work, and quite another to see how is is actually used in reality.

  3. till (unregistered) on November 30th, 2006 @ 12:40 am

    This is a tough decision indeed, and while I follow you with all the dignity stuff, I am not sure if you can make it so easy on people.

    I’m not sure if I get my point across here, but for me life is a precious opportunity which should not be thrown away. I meditate to rid myself from the illusion of suffering. And of course I’ll be smarter once I am older. :)

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