Question 2 on November’s ballot proposes a law, which would allow physicians to prescribe medication, via the terminally ill patient’s request, to end life. Opponents to this law fear that it will be abused and lead to convenience killings of the elderly and disabled. However, the law has many safeguards and has been successfully used in the states of Oregon and Washington.
Oregon enacted the Death with Dignity Act (DWDA) in 1997. Since then, only 596 patients have died from ingesting medications prescribed under the DWDA out of 935 patients who obtained a written prescription. These patients who died under DWDA were mostly age 65 years or older, well-educated, enrolled in hospice care, and had some form of health insurance. Clearly, this law is well-regulated and appropriately used by patients who have sought all other resources. As indicated by the statistics, this choice is not right for everyone and having this option may bring terminally ill patients some peace of mind.
As a University of Massachusetts Lowell nursing student and future nurse, it is my obligation to advocate for my patients, promote autonomy, and alleviate pain and suffering. Hospice care can only go so far. It may be able to relieve physical pain, but it can’t replace the pain a person experiences when they lose their independence, dignity, and enjoyment in life. This decision should be made by the person facing death and not by anyone else. As an American, it is their freedom and liberty to do as they wish with their life.