I am a lawyer in Washington state, where assisted suicide is legal. Robert Zimorino’s (Dec. 18) guest column encourages readers to contact Compassion & Choices, a promoter of assisted suicide (“aid in dying“).

Your readers should know that Compassion & Choices is a successor organization to the Hemlock Society, originally formed by Derek Humphry. In 2011, Humphry was the keynote speaker at Compassion & Choices’ annual meeting here in Washington state. In 2011, he was also in the news as a promoter of mail-order suicide kits from a company now shut down by the FBI. This was after a 29-year-old man had used one of the kits to commit suicide.

In 2007, Compassion & Choices was a plaintiff in Montana’s assisted-suicide case, Baxter v. State. In that case, Compassion & Choices requested legalization of assisted suicide for “terminally ill adult patients.” The definition of the phrase was broad enough to include an otherwise healthy 18-year-old who is insulin-dependent, or a young adult with stable HIV/AIDS. Such persons can live productive lives for decades with appropriate medical treatment.

Once someone is labeled “terminal,” an easy justification can be made that their treatment should be denied in favor of someone more deserving. Those who believe that legalizing assisted suicide will promote free choice may discover that it does anything but.

Theresa Schrempp,

Seattle, Washington

(2) comments


Ms. Schrempp's accusations are indeed a fabrication: Compassion & Choices follows the standard legal designation for what is considered terminally ill, used throughout the country and by Medicare, of six months or less to live. And no one's treatment is "denied" because of this designation; they simply then meet one of the numerous requirements for eligibilty to perhaps choose how long they must suffer as a result of their incurable disease.


As a lawyer, Ms Schrempp has a legal obligation to report any abuse of an elderly person by family or medical professionals. I don't believe she has ever had any reason to do so.

It appears she is fabricating horror stories and making dire, hypothetical predictions about events that have never happened, and never will happen. All this to aid in forcing her narrow, fundamentalist views on people who don't share them. She was a vocal, active opponent of Washington's progression to a 'Death with Dignity' law, without success. Now she is trying to interfere in Montana's consideration of how this issue should be addressed.

She is certainly entitled to share her viewpoint in open discussion, but making exaggerated claims about non-existent abuse and false distortions about the purposes and history of a principled advocacy group don't speak well of her regard for the ethics of her profession.

Given the fundamentalist nature of her claims, her lack of honesty in those doesn't speak well of her personal ethics, either.

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