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Assisted Suicide in the United States

Oregon retains the infamous reputation of being the only state where assisted suicide is legal. Annual reports from Oregon indicate small increases in the number of people committing suicide with assistance, but it is believed the reports are deeply flawed. The reports do indicate that the reason people commit suicide is not primarily because of pain, but that people don’t want to live with their condition.

The proponents of assisted suicide and euthanasia are working under the media radar to find more states willing to legalize assisted suicide. In 2007, major attempts to legalize through legislation were defeated in Hawaii, Vermont, and California. Wisconsin had a public hearing earlier this year on legislation to legalize assisted suicide in our state. In all, there have been 89 attempts in 22 states to legalize assisted suicide that have failed.

But the story doesn’t end here. In Washington, proponents of assisted suicide are spearheading a drive to gather enough signatures to place a question on the November 4, 2008 ballot to legalize in that state. Former Washington governor Booth Gardner is leading this effort. He poses a triple threat in that he is wealthy, well-known, and has a progressive disease. It should be noted that Gardner is already saying that the proposed question does not go far enough because it would only cover people who are terminally ill and would not apply to him. Sounds like a slippery slope to me.

Even further under the radar is a motion filed in a Montana lower court last fall to overturn Montana’s law prohibiting assisted suicide. This case will eventually reach the Montana Supreme Court and is an incredibly important one to watch. We have long felt that we are most vulnerable to having assisted suicide and euthanasia legalized through the courts (ala Roe v. Wade) than through legislative action. Hence, our preoccupation with who sits on our own state Supreme Court.

Activity in the United States is mild, however, compared to the firestorm brewing in Europe. Tune in to tomorrow’s blog to learn what is happening there.


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