Commentary: Floridians should live and die as they please


The right-to-die issue has been hotly debated in the U.S. for decades. Some say the issue came to the forefront after people began to live longer without the worry of infectious diseases, such as the plague and smallpox.

Recently, Washington became the second state in the U.S. after Oregon to legalize physician-assisted suicide, but not without years of controversy and opposition.

Initiative Measure 1000, as the law is called, was passed by a small majority – 51 percent – Nov. 4, 2008. Religious groups, such as the Catholic Church, reportedly raised more than $1 million to block the initiative.

But the right-to-die laws in Oregon and Washington include several safeguards to prevent its misuse.

First of all, the person has to be within six months of dying from a terminal disease, and two independent doctors must confirm the diagnosis.

Secondly, the person has to make two requests – verbally and written – at least two weeks apart to be

Also, the person must be of sound mind and not suffering from depression.

These safeguards were put into place so doctors, pain or depression wouldn’t overly influence a decision to end life.

Some thought people were going to come from far and wide to take advantage of the Oregon law.

This proved to be untrue.

People also thought current patients were going to rush to use the new law. But after 11 years with the law, only 341 Oregonians have actually used the drugs prescribed by doctors to commit suicide.

The fears opponents had of the law simply did not pan out.

Florida should consider passing a similar law, considering it is known as the retirement capital. We have a large elderly population, and some might consider physician-assisted suicide one day.

The topic surely has to come up in the numerous retirement homes, hospitals, doctor’s offices and hospices across Florida.

Though Florida has remained silent on the issue of physician-assisted suicide, I am sure some people have thought about or even asked doctors to help them die.

On a recent NPR broadcast, a man talked about his own experience in assisting with his parents’ death.
Both parents were dying of terminal illnesses.

He said there should have been a legal option, like physician-assisted suicide, for his parents to turn to. It was a burden he should not have had to bear.

We should at least open a public forum to discuss the option of a law legalizing physician-assisted suicide because, unfortunately, we will one day have to face our own or a family member’s mortality.

People should be empowered to choose their time and method of death if it is inevitable. I am a religious person and agree with the argument that God decides who lives and dies.

The truth is, many people just want the security of knowing they can bow out gracefully at any time.

Studies have shown in Oregon that most people requesting the lethal prescription never even use it.

Though I do not think I would ever invoke such a right for myself, I find it hard to deny others the right to live – and die – as they choose.

E-mail Lina Saintus at [email protected]