We all will eventually die; moralists in congress want to make sure we’ll die slowly and expensively. Piously pretending to protect our human dignity, they instead rob us of it, commanding we subject our private lives to their national drug laws and presumptuous morality, no matter what we want. Lawmakers may deny the right to decide to die, but people usually have had the power to do so, when and how they choose.
As a funeral director and clergyman, I’ve seen lots of people die. Some died in dignity, in the company of loving family. Others had to hide. Financially exhausted, they sought to save the family farm from being sold in order to pay for a few more weeks of weary delay. Desperate, they committed suicide, leaving a mess for others. Alone, they could not tell their family, nor say their good byes, nor be helped by their doctor.
I was with my friend Harry and his family when he died recently. Fortunately, he lived here in Oregon, where he could have asked for compassionate help, if he so chose. As it was, he didn’t, partly because Oregon also allowed him to smoke medical marijuana. Harry liked pot; it eased his pains and improved his moods. Puritans in Washington D.C. would arrogantly outlaw both of these rights. Tom Coburn (R OK) bluntly declared, “we do not have the right to die.” Another Republican added, “we have the right to pray for relief, but not to provide or opt for it.”
Seeking to open pain management to a wider and stronger array of controlled substances is a decent and commendable goal; using that as an excuse and cover to overrule state’s rights, and criminalize people’s rights in their realms of living and dying, is not. Even though we supposedly have a “live-and-let-live” society, and the 10th Amendment grants to the states those functions not expressly reserved to the federal government, the Uniform Substances Control Act of 1970 has become a top-down repression on our whole society. The federal prison system has doubled since then, largely to lock up marijuana growers. Now, the Drug Enforcement Administration would police all doctor/patient interactions to make sure no one deliberately dies when they want. The side “benefit” would be, no state (like Oregon) would be able to experiment with or relax draconian and counterproductive national drug laws.
If a “slippery slope” towards imposed euthanasia is what the issue is, pass laws specifically against that. Otherwise, we are on a slippery slope towards a police state that denies all their right to explore variations in the use of personal recreational substances, and/or careful, compassionate, private deaths. We’ll have rooms full of dying but not dead bodies, pumping profits into the medical industry. (Most medical profits occur in the last weeks and months before death.) People would never be allowed to enjoy any drugs of their choice, not in their life, nor at their death.
Living like we want and dying when we choose are abilities Nature and Nature’s God builds into us, which our Bill of Rights once respected and protected. In what America is becoming under the “care” of Republicans and conservative Democrats, we’ll only have the “rights” to pray for relief, and pay for the futile delay.
(Rev.) Brad Carrier