Once again, the legislature has struggled with a bill containing amendments to Indiana’s "Living Will" law. This year, the House of Representatives (which killed the bill in prior sessions) has passed it by a comfortable margin. As I write this, those opposed to this legislation…
Once again, the legislature has struggled with a bill containing amendments to Indiana’s "Living Will" law. This year, the House of Representatives (which killed the bill in prior sessions) has passed it by a comfortable margin. As I write this, those opposed to this legislation are gearing up to lobby the Senate, in hopes of once again preventing passage.
The living will bill is supported by a large coalition of very diverse groups – doctors, senior citizens, civil libertarians and several religious organizations, to name just a few. Opposition has come primarily, if not exclusively, from organizations allied with what has come to be called the radical right. They have defeated it in the past by a simple but very effective tactic: lying about it.
A living will allows the person making that will (and only that person) to spell out his or her desires in the event of terminal illness. Under the existing living will law, I can tell my husband and children that I do not want extraordinary measures taken to prolong my life if I become terminally ill. I cannot currently include among my instructions my wish that artificial nutrition and hydration also be withheld in those circumstances. The pending bill would allow me to do so.
I believe I should have the right to make that decision for myself.
I do not believe that the government has any business telling me, or my family, what measures must be taken to sustain me in extremis.
I also do not believe I have any business telling anyone else what instructions to include in his or her living will. If you want all possible measures taken to prolong your life, that is your right and I respect your decision. We each should be entitled to make our own decisions in our living wills, just as we do in wills distributing our worldly goods.
This is so sensible that most people agree. Poll after poll verifies that agreement. Unlike other so-called "choice" issues, there is broad consensus when the bill is understood for what it is: Respecting the right of each of us to control in advance the nature and extent of our final medical treatment.
Those who believe that you should not be allowed to make a decision that they would not approve have mounted a campaign to confuse the issue. They use words like euthanasia and suicide, invoke the specter of Dr. Kevorkian and suggest that greedy relatives will now be able to "knock off" inconvenient oldsters. They insist that government has a right to keep you alive against your wishes – no matter how you feel about that, no matter how much pain you are suffering, no matter how clearly or vehemently you have expressed a contrary intent. I am sure that many of them genuinely believe that life is so sacred it must be preserved at any cost, and irrespective of the wishes of the person whose life it is. In America, however, I have a fundamental right to make these decisions for myself, free of government coercion and free of the meddling of those who "know better" than I how I should live and die.