Proposition 106 on the Colorado ballot would give terminally-ill patients the ability to self-administer medicine that would quickly end their life. Under the proposition, patients with less than six months to live would have the capability to take, in a lethal dosage, secobarbital – which is generally administered as a sleeping aid.
Rivals to the proposed law worry it provides too few safeguards from patients making irreversible and undesired choices. Critics claim patients “are susceptible to depression and its dark influences on decision-making.” However, the law would require patients to visit two independent doctors to confirm the terminal diagnosis, assess the patient’s soundness of mind, and receive written and verbal request for the drug.
These requirements still do not curb the reservations of critics, as they have vocalized a concern that patients would be “susceptible to self-imposed guilt over burdening family and worries about spending hard-earned savings on care.” Reiterating their point by claiming patients would be inclined to take the cheaper route, suicide, than to pay for the expensive medical treatment.
However, I contend this is not a reasonable argument to make against the proposition. As rational individuals, we have a right to bodily autonomy as long as it doesn’t harm another person. Therefore since, in this particular instance, a patient’s rationale is being assessed by two individual doctors, they should be able to choose when they die. And if that patient decides they want to die because the alternative options put too steep of a financial burden on their family that is their choice. Whether you agree with that decision or not is irrelevant. If someone is of sound mind, they should be able to decide what happens to their body for whatever reason they see fit.
Anti-Right-To-Die-er’s also emphasize their concern when it comes to a doctor’s responsibility to act as the counselor for patients on death and suicide and the prescriber of the drug. The Denver Post’s Editorial Board, who have said no to the proposition, stated “we don’t have unfettered faith in all doctors’ ability to handle that responsibility.” They do not develop this point further, so I struggle to fully understand what their contention is.
If however, their main concern is the ability of doctors to act as a non-biased entity and to not force one procedure or another onto patients, I believe this argument, in this particular situation, to be void. For while in some instances in diseases such a cancer, where the treatment options are diverse, confusing, complex, and intricate, a doctor will go over numerous treatments and list the dangers and potential for successes, the same is not necessary for this treatment option.
When it comes to terminally-ill patients choosing whether or not to take a ‘suicide’ pill, I contend that the options are very few in number, and the implications of each choice are rather straightforward. Furthermore, like any other disease I, as a patient, have the right to choose what treatment I take and do not take. If I have the right to not take Chemotherapy, which could mean death, I should also have the right to choose take treatments that have the same end result.
Humans inherently believe “human life is sacred at every stage and should be protected.” We may not agree with someone’s choice to end their life, but we must all agree on a person’s right to choose that option.