Much of the debate around Proposition 106 is about how the bill itself is written. Many of the arguments against it often argue from a standpoint that the proposition is written poorly. I do think that these arguments are clearly true.
It is absolutely crazy that there is no specification as to what type of doctor is qualified to make judgments about the severity of the disease that must be considered terminal within six months. The fact that there is no required psychological evaluation, unless your doctor considers you unstable in some way, leaves the door open to all sorts of problems with who this drug will be administered to (especially considering that many people who are diagnosed with a terminal disease fall into depression at some point during their suffering and in Oregon only 3% were ever referred to a psychologist). And the simple fact that the drug is less effective at actually ending human life than many of the other more popular suicide methods around today are, is frightening considering that the drug which is supposed to end suffering often is a cause of greater suffering.
But what if all of these problems were solved? What if we found some way of guessing the severity of illnesses with 100% accuracy? What if we developed a suicide drug that was actually painless and ended life 100% of the time it was administered? Would Assisted Suicide still be wrong?
As a man who has suffered deeply I say yes, absolutely. At sixteen years old I was diagnosed with stage IV (i.e. life-threatening and malignant) cancer. I underwent nine months of intense chemotherapy and radiation. During my treatment I wished I could have died. In fact the only thing that prevented me from killing myself at one time was the fact I was literally so sick that I lacked the energy necessary to do so. It is because I couldn’t easily take my life then, that I am alive to write this today.
Proposition 106 and other bills like it will give people like me the means to kill themselves quickly and easily in similar situations. This makes me furious. This tells me that my life was not worth living while I was suffering. This tells me that my mother was foolish for sitting by my bedside while I suffered the effects of the drugs I was on and wondered if I would survive them. This tells me that I am worthless because I was weak.
Even more so I am incensed because of the men and women I met while I was in the hospital and those I have met since. The people who are no longer with us. Those whose lives were taken by this disease, or one of the many other horrible diseases that exist in our world. This bill tells them that the last parts of their lives were meaningless. This law and others like it would tell countless parents that their child is better dead than alive, and countless sons and daughters that their parents would be better off without them. Believe me when I say that my mother would rather suffer alongside me forever than to have her son kill himself so as not to be a burden. The families of the many people who have died from this horrible disease and others like it would not trade those last days for anything. It will be no less painful to lose a friend to suicide just because it was a doctor that handed them the pills.
We live in a world where suffering is real but not in one where it needs to be avoided at all costs. We live because we are created and we die because our time eventually comes to leave this world. It does not take a devout adherent of any religious theology to realize that we neither create ourselves nor sustain ourselves in being — why then do we feel we deserve the legal power to remove ourselves from this world?
It is clear to me that I have to vote no on Proposition 106 for many reasons but it makes me angry to think that during this election cycle I will have to vote on a proposition like this. When I read the text of Proposition 106, I, and countless others like me who have suffered greatly, read that our lives are only as valuable as the majority opinion; that if the 50.1 percent say so, the value of my life drops to an expiration date and a price tag. That if life can’t be saved it should be ended.
For those of you who don’t know how to vote on this bill, please believe that it is a fatally flawed measure, and it is our responsibility as citizens striving for the common good to not allow this to become law. If it weren’t for my family, friends, and caretakers who told me my life is worthwhile, I would not be alive today. Consider your friends, consider your family, and please vote “no” on Proposition 106. The lives of us who suffer are not meaningless.
This perspective was written by Peter Srsich, a seminarian currently studying at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.