Should Doctors In Illinois Be Allowed To Help People Die?

Jan 25, 2018

An effort is underway in Illinois that would let the terminally ill choose to end their life.  

Oregon approved the option back in the mid 90's.  A few more states and Canada have followed with similar laws.  They allow a terminally ill and mentally sound individual to choose to end their life.   

“We all die and unfortunately as we approach death, as we get sicker and sicker, often a lot of pain and suffering comes with it.  And when death is imminent, when suffering is intolerable, it should be your choice,” said Ed Gogol of Final Options Illinois. 

He said his interest in the issue came about after a family friend began suffering from Parkinson's Disease and no longer wanted to go through treatment. 

Gogol wants an Illinois law that would have the patient being prescribed medication they would self-administer.  It's not "physician-assisted suicide" or "euthanasia" because the doctor would only make sure the person qualified. 

Gogol calls it compassion. "The ability to say, when suffering has truly gotten intolerable, that I don't want to go through these final agonies. I am approaching death anyway.  That should be a human right.” 

He supports safeguards to ensure nobody is forced into the decision.  Final Options Illinois lays out those conditions on its website (see below): 

*The patient’s primary care physician must make certain that the patient is making an informed decision and is fully knowledgeable about the alternatives including hospice and palliative care.

*Both the patient’s primary physician and a second physician must agree that the patient has an irreversible illness which can be expected to produce death within six months, and is mentally competent to make a decision to hasten their death. If there is any doubt on this score, a mental health professional must be called in, and only if this professional certifies that the patient is mentally competent and capable of making an informed decision can the process continue.*

*The patient must make three separate requests, one of which must be in writing. There are two waiting periods mandated – fifteen days from the date of the first request, and two days from the date of the written request.

*The written request must be witnessed by at least two individuals, at least one of which is not related to the patient and has no financial interest in any part of the patient’s estate. (Forging or altering such a request is a serious felony!)

*The patient has every opportunity to rescind the request, and may do so at any time and in any manner.

*The medication prescribed must be self-administered. It’s something you must do for yourself, if you choose to – not something which is done for you or to you!

*The law explicitly states that no one shall qualify solely by virtue of age or disability.

*The law explicitly states that no contract can be conditioned on or affected by your election or non-election to hasten your death in this manner.  

Despite those measures, doctors continue to debate the ethics of the issue. Some argue it goes against their Hippocratic oath and there is still the possibility of physician error when making a prognosis.   

Gogol says this year, his organization will host film screenings on the subject around the state and work to educate lawmakers and the public.  He expects a measure could be debated next year.   

The film "How to Die in Oregon" will be shown Saturday January 27 at 2 p.m. at the Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation.   Q & A session to follow. Earlier in the day, a screening will occur at the Urbana-Champaign Universalist Unitarian Church at 9:30 a.m.