Choose dignity next time

Back in April, the Nevada Legislature had a chance to prove itself concerned about liberty, personal freedom and compassion, when Senate Bill 336 was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators, including Democrat David Parks and Republican Ben Kieckhefer. That bill regarded provisions governing prescribing, dispensing and administering controlled substances designed to end the life of a patient, a death with dignity bill. It can be read here:

Our craven legislature allowed the bill an undignified death, not giving it a single hearing.

Let’s be honest. People hate to talk and think about death, particularly the death of loved ones or of ourselves. But there’s only one time to talk about it, and that’s before it’s upon us, before the unrelenting pain that no amount of diladid, morphine or oxycontin can begin to sooth takes over, before the pain medications disable the ability to think or to make rational decisions, before a disease robs us of agency and self-determination.

But it’s a religious issue, and we’ve seen the cowardice the Legislature frequently exhibits when church exerts its power over state.

As we’ve seen with many religious issues, like same-sex marriage, religious groups can be willing to misrepresent facts in order to enforce religious views upon people who have different belief systems.

Nevada once again has shown the weakness of its convictions regarding personal liberty. And once again, we find ourselves looking west for leadership. California’s legislature, after doing its due diligence, seeking facts instead of superstitious rhetoric and political fearmongering, passed a bill to allow physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients that would allow mentally competent patients to request a prescription to end their lives. The medical establishment’s claims of ethical vows to do no harm ring hollow in the face of unrelenting pain, particularly since the profit margins are so high with the heroic measures taken to prolong life and suffering.

We don’t know which way California Gov. Jerry Brown will go. We do know he’s a deeply religious man, a former Jesuit seminarian. Will he let his religious convictions trump his responsibility to help the most helpless among us? It remains to be seen.

So, let us be clear. If the state owns an individual’s right to decide when to end his or her own life, it owns that individual. There is no right that should be more fundamental than the ability to choose with sound mind a death that doesn’t include blood-spattered floors or walls, the knowledge that a family member will discover a dead or dying loved one’s body, or a botched effort. The very idea that the state owns an individual’s life is antithetical to principles this country was supposedly founded upon.

Suicide is easy, but without the ability for an individual to end a life medically and humanely, it’s rarely clean, painless or dignified. The state has no vested interest in prolonging the lives of people who would choose to die rather than lose their minds and bodily agency.

This is about humanity being humane.