[ OUR OPINION ]
Death with Dignity
deserves future look
LEGISLATION aimed at providing terminally ill patients the option of ending their lives in dignity by being prescribed lethal medication has failed to gain enactment in Hawaii for the fourth straight year. The issue remains open for future sessions of the state Legislature. With each passing year, information from Oregon, the only state allowing physician-assisted suicide, contradicts opponents' arguments that the practice would create a slippery slope toward widespread use and abuse.
The state House has rejected a bill that would have allowed physician-assisted suicide for patients who are terminally ill.
Each of the six annual reports from the state of Oregon shows that few terminally ill patients ask for and receive the medication to end their lives. During those years, 171 Oregon patients took lethal medication provided by physicians -- less than one-third of 1 percent of the 53,544 Oregonians who were dying from the same underlying diseases. Lethal doses are requested most often by patients suffering from Lou Gehrig's Disease and AIDS, according to Oregon's Health Division.
Last year, 42 Oregonians died from prescribed lethal doses, three of them from doses prescribed before 2003. Of the 28 people who did not ingest the life-ending medication they had asked for, 18 died from their illnesses before the year's end and 10 lived beyond Jan. 1. Doctors reported that the most common concerns by patients asking for the medication were the loss of autonomy (93 percent), decreasing ability to participate in activities (93 percent) and loss of dignity (82 percent), thus the law's title -- the Death with Dignity Act.
The agency reported that the availability of lethal medication may have led to other life-ending decisions, creating an opportunity for doctors "to explore with patients their fears and wishes around end-of-life care, and to make patients aware of other options." The Oregon law requires physicians to inform patients who request lethal medication about "feasible alternatives."
The state House defeated the physician-assisted suicide bill last year by only two votes. It was pulled away from the House floor this session; Rep. Scott Saiki, a co-sponsor, said it lacked the support needed for enactment. The proposal had been kept in committee in the two previous years. The proposal will be enacted only after informed legislators can overcome emotional opposition within their ranks.
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Bombings in Madrid
show need for unity
JUST as Europeans looked across the Atlantic after Sept. 11 and declared in unison, "We are all Americans," the events of March 11 call for us to affirm that solidarity against terrorism: "Somos todos Españoles." The coordinated bombing in Madrid of four commuter trains during the morning rush hour, killing some 200 people and injuring more than 1,400, was a grim reminder that terrorists know no boundaries and must be fought multinationally.
Spain is in the middle of a three-day mourning period following the bombing of commuter trains in its capital city.
Ten backpack bombs were detonated during a 15-minute span along nine miles of a commuter line. Spanish officials are blaming the Basque separatist group ETA, whose initials stand for Basque Homeland and Freedom in the Basque language. However, ETA denied blame, the first time it has issued such a denial of an attack for which it was blamed.
Interior Minister ngel Acebes said investigators had found a backpack with an unexploded bomb containing explosives like those used by ETA. Also in the backpack were a Spanish-made detonator and a cell phone apparently intended to trigger the detonator. Other reports say the bomb was different from those used by ETA.
A shadowy group with ties to al-Qaida was quick to take responsibility, sending an e-mail to an Arabic newspaper's London office, claiming it was "settling old accounts with Spain, the crusader, and America's ally in its war against Islam."
The timing supports the case against either ETA or al-Qaida. The bombings came only three days before tomorrow's elections, in which Mariano Rajoy has been endorsed by outgoing Prime Minister José María Aznar to succeed him. It also came 911 days -- exactly 2 1/2 years -- after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.
ETA has targeted politicians or judges in past acts of terrorism, but Thursday's victims were ordinary Madrileños on their way to work, far more in number than in any previous Basque attack. Aznar has been a firm opponent of Basque separatism and narrowly survived an ETA car bombing in 1995. He also has been unwavering in his support of U.S. efforts in the Persian Gulf, sending troops to Iraq last year in defiance of popular opinion at home.
Whoever is to blame, Aznar said, "March 11, 2004, now holds its place in the history of infamy." Those words have a sadly familiar ring.