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.