Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

    Death with Dignity explored

    “Who has access to all of the psychiatric and medical resources necessary to end their own life?”

    This was the question posed by associate professor of politics Bruce Magnusson during the faculty panel discussion on Washington’s upcoming

    “Death with Dignity” ballot measure (Inititative 1000) Tuesday, Oct. 22.

    The panel on Initiative 1000 was the third of the three-part “From Where I Stand” series sponsored by the Race and Ethnic Studies department.
    Delbert Hutchison, associate professor of biology, Bruce Magnusson, associate professor of politics, Tim Kaufman-Osborn, Chair of Politics and Leadership, and Melissa Wilcox, assistant professor of religion shared their viewpoints with the audience in Olin Hall.

    The event drew around 60 people who heard the panelists discuss the initiative as it relates to issues of race and ethnicity.

    Despite endorsing the measure on the whole, Kaufman pointed out that the initiative could bring about greater inequality in society. Like Magnusson, he had concerns about the availability of the health care necessary to receive lethal drugs for the economically disadvantaged.

    “My point here is not to urge anyone to vote against Initiative 1000,” said Kaufman.

    “My point is… this initiative obscures the inequalities that will go a long way toward determining who is and who is not in a position to exercise the freedom it seeks to secure.”

    First-year Lizzie Schiller, encouraged to attend the lecture by one of her professors, found the panelists’ perspectives broadened her view of Initiative 1000.

    “I didn’t really understand how race and ethnicity could play a role with the assisted suicide proposal, but after the meeting, my   mindset totally changed,” said Schiller.

    Initiative 1000 is based largely on the Oregon death with dignity statute, passed in 1994. Currently, Oregon is the only U.S. state that has passed legislation similar to Initiative 1000.

    In order to legally end your own life, Initiative 1000 would require an individual to be 1) judged mentally competent 2) terminally ill with less than six months to live and 3) make a voluntary request to end their own life. Each of these three conditions would have to be verified by two different physicians.

    Additional concerns about the bill include the possibility that clinically depressed individuals will receive lethal drugs and that parties other than the ill individual (such as greedy relatives) will coerce a decision to end life.

    Washington voters rejected another assisted suicide initiative in 1991 that allowed physicians to administer the lethal drugs if the patient was unable. Initiative 1000 prohibits physicians from administering lethal dosages, instead mandating that patients self-administer the drugs.

    Thus far, Initiative 1000 has been endorsed by the Seattle Times, the Tri-City Herald, the Olympian, and other Washington newspapers.

    The panel on Oct. 21 was moderated by Spanish Professor Alberto Galindo. Past topics of the panel series include the 2008 presidential race and American popular culture. Contact Galindo at [email protected] if you have any questions about past or future panels.

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