The State of the Assisted Suicide Debate

By: Beth Shayne Email
By: Beth Shayne Email

To some he's a hero, to others a celebrity murderer, but no doubt, Jack Kevorkian is a symbol.

For Compassion & Choices, an advocacy organization based in Oregon--the only state where assisted suicide is legal--, Kevorkian is an example of why safe suicide options for the sick should be made law.

"To villify him is the shoot the messenger mentality, because you don't like the message," president Barbara Lee explains. "Patients feel genuine desperation and there is a profound need for rational public policy on end of life choices."

Michigan's legislature banned physician assisted suicide in 1998. That same year voters said "no" to a ballot initiative that would have made it legal.

An Associated Press/Ipsos poll conducted last week says 48% of Americans think doctor-assisted suicide should be legal. 44% say no.

55% say they'd never consider it personally. 35% would.

The Michigan Catholic Conference has opposed it time and time again.

" believe the people of this state have spoken clearly before and they would again," VP of Public Policy, Paul Long explains. "A physician assisted suicide is anything but a natural death."

Long fears Kevorkians' release means a media circus around the cause--a step backwards, he says.

"It will take away from all the great advances in promotion of hospice care--good palliative care that we've made in this state and nationwide," Long says.

Proponents of it--like Compassion & Choices--welcome the debate, and the symbol of it, this time, once again.

Five states, other than Michigan, also failed ballot initiatives on the topic. The California legislature is currently considering a bill to legalize certain types of assisted suicide.


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