The Seattle PI columnist Joel Connelly is a refreshing exception to much of the media that continue to see assisted suicide as a modernistic “choice” issue rather than one founded in abandonment and inequality. He has a column today (for which I was interviewed) properly critical of the word engineering in which the “Death with Dignity” crowd engages to persuade people that hemlock is really honey. From his column:
If you are campaigning for the “right” of people to kill themselves, the first challenge is finding a nonlethal definition: Soft, reassuring terms must be substituted for the off-putting phrase “assisted suicide.”…
Apparently Gardner and political consultants advising him never met Derek Humphrey, plain-spoken co-founder of the Hemlock Society.”As the author of four books on the right to choose to die, including ‘Final Exit,’ I find the vacillation by (Oregon’s) Department of Human Services on how to describe the act of a physician helping a terminally ill person to die by handing them a lethal overdose–which they can choose to drink (or not)–an affront to the English language,” Humphrey wrote to The Register Guard newspaper in Eugene, Ore. ” ‘Physician’ means a licensed M.D.; ‘assisted’ means helping; and ‘suicide’ means deliberately ending life. “The department’s cop-out choice of the words ‘death with dignity’ is wildly ambiguous and means anything you want. Let’s stick to the English language and in this matter call a spade a spade.”
That would be the approach for those respectful of democracy. But assisted suicide activists want to win, and are not about to let a little language deconstruction get in the way of their goal.
Then, there is the money:
Among local political consultants, I-1000 is becoming a cause to die for. The Yes-on-1000 Committee has shelled out more than $333,000, in increments of $10,000 to $50,000, to 12 consulting firms and consultants.
Prominent Democratic consultants are on the receiving end. J. Blair Butterworth, chief political adviser to former Gov. Gary Locke, has received $15,000. And Northwest Passage Consulting, headed by Sen. Maria Cantwell’s former campaign aide Christian Sinderman, has received $21,789. The list is growing. “Signature Gatherers Needed Immediately. Great $$$!” read an ad on Craigslist.com last week. A company, National Ballot Access, seeks paid signature gatherers for assisted suicide, promising 75 cents for each voter that signs the petition.
Gardner’s letter referenced by Connelly, which I discussed here at SHS, whines about all the money the opponents will spend to prevent “compassion.” But the reverse is actually true. Assisted suicide is primarily an elitist agenda. The primary advocates are almost all among the well tailored. Millions are being poured into the effort internationally, and hundreds of thousands from around the country into the Washington campaign–and that’s before Gardner opens his own wallet.
I have predicted that this measure will fail in the end. Perhaps that is my heart overruling my head. But there is so much bad about assisted suicide that it can be defeated, as it has repeatedly been in legislatures and voter initiatives since Oregan’s law passed in 1994.
The key, though, is getting the message out. We’ll see how it goes.