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September 26, 2006

Assisted suicide?

May the law protect me from those who think like Dick McCoy (9/21, As I See It, “Families should be able to make right-to-die choices”). He proposes to put his “dear” wife to sleep, like an animal. Not content with the ethical advice he received from professionals, he took his plea for euthanasia public by rousing alarm against Sen. Sam Brownback’s proposed Assisted Suicide Prevention Act.

“Assisted suicide” implies that someone — perhaps a terminally ill person with unbearable pain — asks to die. A woman in her 19th year of Alzheimer’s is not asking to die.

Her husband asserts she is in a “nondescript vegetative state” despite the fact that she voluntarily accepts food. He ignores the suggestion that her inner life — though inscrutable — may be quite active.

The Star reported recently that electronic brain scan activity in a comatose patient was indistinguishable from that of a healthy person. Mrs. McCoy is not even unconscious! Should her fate depend on someone who claims “keeping her alive makes no sense spiritually”? Just where is the dividing line between matter and spirit?

McCoy evidently thinks his conscious but uncommunicative wife has crossed an arbitrary line from spiritual being to mere blob of living matter and therefore her diminished existence should be snuffed.

Diane Marshall



I knew what you meant.


PS to Kate: I understood your line about the cut finger to be joking. My BTW was meant to be taken in kind.


I don't think there is anyone looking for some kind of carte blanche. Reasonable guidlines is what is desired.

The way things are now, you can have a written will, take care of the power of attorney and all that other stuff. Then have a bunch of outsiders decide what you wanted is wrong.

There are two issues that are more personal than all others combined. Those are the issues of birth and death. Nothing is more highly personal.

In the situations I have been faced with regarding birth, I have made the decisions that I made and am at peace with them.

Thankfully, I thus far haven't had to make decisions involving death. At the same time I am the bearer of the "living wills" etc of both my mother and my son in the Army. Both have told me that is because they believe I am the most likly to "think with my head instead of my heart" when the time comes. I've never been certain whether that is something to be proud of.

Regardless, if and when the time comes that the decision must be made, the last thing I want is a bunch of outsiders sticking their noses in and telling me to decide based on their personal beliefs. I just don't think it's any of their business.

Kate: I appreciate your statement about the pain I used to live with. Thankfully, us humans are incapable of "remembering" pain. We can remember that it hurt but are unable to re-experience the pain itself. My geuss is that accounts for women having more than one child.


I agree with Kate -- we need to ensure that there are guidelines in place that will protect the wishes of people like Mrs. McCoy. Likewise, people like Mr. McCoy, charged with carrying out the wishes of their loved ones, need to have recourse to compassionate healthcare that will not prolong life beyond the point where it is worth living.

It's a delicate line, and we would be well to scrutinize carefully the Oregon approach to see if it accomplishes what we want it to accomplish.


Tomw – it’s not the 4 stitches, so much as the preceding 25 years of “for better or worse” – the stitches might just be the final straw.

I think my husband still considers me useful enough to warrant minor repairs. But if he ever figures out how to use the washing machine, I’ll have to start sleeping with one eye open.

My flip answer aside, Jack, I am truly sorry for the awful pain you suffered. But if you had decided to end the pain yourself, it would have been your decision alone. Mr. McCoy wanted to make that decision for his wife. What he wanted to do could not be considered assisted suicide. I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of assisted suicide, but to my way of looking at it, what he’s talking about is killing his wife, to put it bluntly. And I’m surprised I’m the only one just a little bit appalled by the idea of that.


I thought it was pretty funny -- 'specially the "BTW" in Jack's post. :-D


Its' called humor. Mellow out.


Kate: Ahh, come on. The incredibly extreme and off the wall "examples" of how an assisted suicide law might work helps no one. We all know the history of things like "eugenics" and "life not worth life" and it is fairly simple to write protections in against that form of horror.

I have been clear with my family. I have no interest in being a vegetable at the end of a feeding tube. I have seen the results of Alzheimers and also have no interest in going there.

I also spent several years living with progressive, chronic, sickening pain. The difference was that there was an end of the pain in sight. I always knew that one day I would be able to have the surgery and the hope that the pain would be removed.

Thankfully, more than 13 years ago, the successful surgery was completed and the pain was removed.

I can't imagine going through that pain with the firm knowledge that it would never get better and always get worse. In that instance I think I would have chosen to end the pain myself after my kids were grown. I do not sit in judgement of those with no hope.

BTW: If your family would choose to terminate your life over the need for a few stitches, I think there is a serious problem. Please review your treatment of those you love wiith a view toward rebuilding those relationships.


Yep...Alzheimer's for 19 years and 4 stitches in a finger...pretty much the same thing.

T. Hanson

Opps... Kate forgot part of the quote... Let me finish "...Cases like that of my wife should be put in the hands of spouses and families, within guidelines set by all Missourians."

Wow.. funny how the rest of that paragraph works. Now it says within guidelines set by all Missourians. So there would be procedures set just like in Oregon.

I find it so ironic that the Conservatives want the government to stay out of their lives, but always impose their own values onto others.


“Missouri needs a right-to-die law that goes beyond both the Oregon law and the inadequate doctor/medical criteria.”

I can see now that I’m going to have to start cleaning up my act. Last year I went to the emergency room with a gash on my finger, caused when the knife slipped while I was chopping vegetables. If something “that goes beyond Oregon’s law” were in effect, that would have been the perfect opportunity for my husband to pull the doctor aside and tell him that maybe I wasn’t worth the effort of 4 stitches, and to just put me down. And let’s face it, if I had been particularly cranky that week, the rest of the family would have signed off without any qualms.


What? There is an issue the religious right might NOT have the one and only possible answer to?


Keep the government out of such decisions.

T. Hanson

Diane Marshall, can I have your phone number? I mean if I ever get injured in a car accident or have to go to the hospital I think they should contact you. It seems that no level of care should be admisitered till I get a vote from you and your government. Thank goodness I have the whole state watching out for me.

Global Citizen

I worked for the Oregon Assisted Suicide Act and helped get it passed. Twice.

I have worked in health care for two decades, and seen a lot of people living a life that I would not want for myself, and my family is aware of my feelings. I expect them to respect my wishes if the time ever comes.

Who knows Mr. McCoy's wife and what she would want better? Mr. McCoy, or Ms. Marshall?

Of course it's Ms. Marshall. How silly of me.

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