I recently had a discussion with my mother about Amendment 106, the Access to Medical Aid in Dying proposal called the Colorado End-of-Life Options Act. It is modeled after Oregon’s law that was passed in the 1997.
My mother is a nurse and an Atheist who was raised in the Catholic faith. I on the other hand view myself as an Agnostic who still believes in some tenants of the Catholic faith. I was baptized at the age of 3 and my dog tags that I still wear have “No Religious Preference” stamped as my faith. I am open to many the realms of possibilities. Is there a God? Is there an afterlife? Perhaps there is; perhaps there is not. Maybe there is no absolute answer to this; somewhere in the middle. I am content with questioning this for the rest of my life.
There are many thoughts about death. Perhaps death is a permanent end in this realm into the journey into the next plane of existences. Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory certainly represent the next plane. Reincarnation as well.
Access to Medical Aid in Dying is another way of rephrasing Assisted Suicide. Here is what the amendment proposes to do:
Proposition 106 creates the "Colorado End-of-Life Options Act," which allows individuals with a terminal illness to request from their physician and self-administer medical aid-in-dying medication (medication). To be eligible to request medication, the individual must:
- be a Colorado resident aged 18 or older;
- be able to make and communicate an informed decision to health care providers;
- have a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less to live (terminally ill) that has been confirmed by two physicians, including the individual's primary physician and a second, consulting physician;
- be determined mentally capable by two physicians, who have concluded that the individual understands the consequences of his or her decision; and
- voluntarily express his or her wish to receive the medication
Choosing to end your life is a serious decision. There are the spiritual, philosophical, ethical, and legal ramification of such a (literally) life-ending decision.
As I read the text, there is one that stands out: “be determined mentally capable by two physicians, who have concluded that the individual understands the consequences of his or her decision.”
If I suddenly received news that I had six months or fewer left to live, what would be my mental state?
I am not sure anyone would be mentally sound having received such devastating news. Shock, fear, sadness, anger would certainly be my emotions. Other people might have a different reaction to hearing the news so I don’t know.
Involving physicians is important. However, they too might face ethical issues as well. On one hand doctors are trained to save lives and prevent death. The other is the foundation of the medical field: “First do no harm.”
How many doctors have looked into the eyes of a bed bound patient and saw the look of pleas begging someone to end their pain? They are trapped in a cocoon, unable to yell. Is that really a life?
Pursuit of happiness
It is in the Declaration of Independence when a group of men made an appeal not to Heaven for defying a monarch, but a higher calling. Perhaps it was their own conscience coming to the realization that the relationship between the colonies and the crown had reach a breaking point. It was unsustainable and it was time for independence even if meant that those that conspired to wage revolution might end up in the gallows or even their friends and family could join them in order to set an example to crush future insurrections.
Does that also extend to someone choosing to end their life? If someone chooses to end their life does that mean they have forfeited their liberty and no longer have the pursuit of happiness. Or rather, ending your life you have embraced liberty and it is a pursuit of happiness on your terms and no one else’s.
Other issues arise with this. The rights of the disabled. The stigma associated with suicide and other mental health concerns. Quality vs. quantity of life. The administration and regulation of the fatality-induced medication. Legal matters. Some doctors might find the practice abhorrent and refuse to participate citing their personal ethics.
I have thought about this and in good conscience I cannot provide one. This is not a vote against or for the amendment. I wish there was an abstain option for this choice and delegate the decision to my fellow citizens. However, that would be abdicating my responsibility. As a citizen, I have a duty to make a choice and sometimes they are not easy.
For this endorsement I encourage a good conscience vote in this case.
If your conscience tells you yes, no, or leave the option blank, those are perfectly good options and understandable.