Thank you for addressing such an important and contentious topic (“Assisted Suicide Legal in Washington,” Jan/Feb 2009) and for clarifying the difference between assisted suicide and euthanasia.
The author states that many people suffering from neurological diseases would not be able to take advantage of assisted suicide—even if legal—because they would be physically incapable of self-administering the drugs by the time they are six months from probable death. I think a way to ensure an individual's right in this area would be to prepare an advance directive at the time of diagnosis. Why would someone with a terminal disease have to wait until six months of death, especially when the illness will rob them of the ability to physically self-administer the drugs?
A mandatory (or even voluntary) advance directive would also allow someone to make their wishes known while they are cognitively competent to do so. Then, if someone asks for a prescription to end their life at a point when there is a question about their mental competency (due to disease progression), the request can be compared to a recent advance directive.
It is not comforting to some of us that we may have to choose a messy or painful way to end our lives if faced with a debilitating, terminal illness because we can't trust that reason and not emotion will rule the day.
—Stephanie H. Corkran, M.A.
San Diego, CA