As ballot initiatives go, Prop. 106 lends itself to some especially intriguing stories.
On the pro-side, there are people dying, in pain, desperate for some control over their last days, for peace of mind, and for dignity.
On the anti-side, there are people of faith who believe it’s a sin to take your life. And there are people with disabilities who think legalizing “assisted suicide,” as they call it, devalues their lives in the eyes of able-bodied folks and could lead to abuses that amount to murder.
Pretty existential stuff. Messy and human and deep.
That’s why we dug in, covering the medical aid-in-dying ballot question from lots of angles.
Tina Griego wrote a thoughtful and exquisitely rendered piece about Carrie Ann Lucas, the high-profile disability activist in Colorado who has some provocative reasons for trying to defeat the measure. Among them are her concerns that the law will open the door to abuse from doctors, insurance companies, caregivers and those who might benefit from the death of a disabled person. She fears that the medical industry will overlook depression in a person who is disabled, allowing those dependent upon medical intervention to end their lives prematurely.
You can watch Lucas argue those points here in this video of The Independent-sponsored debate against Barbara Coombs Lee, executive director of Compassion & Choices, the group leading the effort to make Colorado the latest state to pass a medical aid-in-dying law.
If Lucas is the face of Prop. 106 opposition, the face of support is that of Dan Diaz, whose wife Brittany Maynard died two years ago this week, at age 29, of an inoperable brain tumor. Maynard and Diaz moved from California to Oregon, so she could avail herself of a fatal prescription rather than spend her last few weeks in agony. Diaz has carried on Maynard’s mission of educating the public about the need for aid-in-dying laws. When speaking with Susan Greene for a Q&A, the former Eagle Scout and altar boy has especially harsh words for the Catholic Church, which condemned Maynard after her death.
Susan went to Mass one recent Sunday morning to capture the Catholic perspective on the ballot measure.
Over the past several months, we’ve spoken with Coloradans with terminal conditions who are fighting to pass Prop. 106. Patti James, an 80-year-old cancer patient, was never active in politics until Prop. 106 inspired her. She sees a clear distinction between suicide and medical aid-in-dying. “I can tell you that people who are diagnosed with a terminal illness are not suicidal. They want to live. But when pain gets more than tolerable, they want relief. There’s a big difference there,” she said. Read Susan’s story here.
One of the saddest stories we found was that of Sheryl Randall, whose mitochondrial disease was making eating impossible. With no medical-aid-in-dying option, she committed suicide. Friend after friend – seven, in all – came forward to tell the story of Sheryl’s desperate, violent end. It was a parable, they said, for why Prop. 106 needs to become law. “Maybe I’m projecting my own feelings on Sheryl,” one friend said. “But, then, I knew her quite well. I feel like she wouldn’t want anybody else to go through what she went through if there was a better way to do it.”