A state-by-state initiative is gaining momentum to allow terminally ill, mentally competent people to request and obtain medication from their physician to shorten their suffering and achieve a peaceful, dignified death. Polled nationwide, a large majority, across political, religious, ethnic and gender lines favor this initiative. So far it is legal in nine states – Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Vermont, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine and Washington, D.C. Twenty-one national and state medical societies have dropped their opposition.
We are gaining support for the passage of legislation in Illinois. This legislation should be similar to the medical aid-in-dying laws in these other states, where there have not been any signs of coercion. Legislative provisions offer protection to both patients and their medical providers. A patient must be deemed terminally ill by two physicians, must make requests for the prescription and be able to ingest the medication on their own. They may choose when, or if, they will take the medication. Some patients feel it gives them peace of mind to know that they will have it available when their suffering becomes too great. Some may never take it.
Terminally ill adults “should be free to decide whether to prolong life as long as possible, or to end their suffering,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion and Choices, a nationl nonprofit organization that affirms life and accepts the inevitability of death, embraces expanded treatment options for compassionate dying and empowers everyone to chart their end-of-life journey. This organization has been instrumental in making Medical Aid in Dying available in the states where it is legal and is working to make it legal in all of the remaining states.
They also offer a great support system for the terminally ill and their families. C&C does not encourage any particular plan or option. Their goal is simply to educate people on the full range of their end-of-life options. Their website is compassionandchoices.org and they can be reached at 1-800-247-7421 to speak with an end-of-life consultant.
Illinois has organized a number of groups called Action Teams to get legislation passed so that Illinoisans, if they so choose, can also access this civil right of compassion for the dying. The Springfield Action Team meets monthly on the first Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Abraham Lincoln Universalist Unitarian Congregation at 745 Woodside Drive, Springfield. Visitors are welcome. Anyone interested in joining or learning more about the Springfield Action Team may call 217-679-7211.
Dr. David Grube, national medical director for Compassion and Choices, will speak on Medical Aid in Dying 5:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at SIU School of Medicine South Auditorium, 801 N. Rutledge, Springfield.
Dorothy DeWeese is a member of the Springfield Action Team. Contact her at email@example.com.