Boland column: What government shouldn’t tell us to do or not
A friend of mine who is a physician said to me recently, “When you get to our age, you ought to be able to do whatever the hell you want.” I’m not sure exactly how old he is, but I just celebrated my 80th, and I agree with him completely.
Now the Colorado End-Of-Life Options Act has made it onto our November ballot, thanks to the tireless efforts of lots of volunteer petition circulators. So I am going to put on my libertarian hat and assert that I don’t believe the government has the right to tell me or my doctor how or when I can die.
My husband and I have raised our children, worked, paid our taxes, helped raise our grandkids and helped with the obscenely high cost of getting them through college, so I don’t think the government has the right to ask any more of us. Especially, I do not think it has the right to tell me or my doctor that he can’t help me to die peacefully when I have nothing but futile pain and pointlessness to look forward to.
In fact, I think that when a person is older than 65 or suffering a terminal illness, it should be solely between that person and one or two doctors to make life or death decisions. I also believe the government should have no say about what pregnant women do with their bodies.
Our Constitution mandates separation of church and state and freedom of religion. Since opposition to abortion is almost always based on religious beliefs, the government has no right to enforce this opposition. In a free country, it should be left entirely up to religious leaders to convince their followers not to abort. Religious leaders have no right to ask the government to do their work for them.
I also think the drug war is not only futile, but has horrible unintended consequences. The poor suffer disproportionately because it is easier to enforce on the streets of poor neighborhoods than in the homes of the well off. And horrendous crime is created at home and abroad by the allure of getting high prices for illegal drugs. If the drug war ended, drugs would be too cheap to bother pushing. It would be infinitely saner and cheaper for the government to simply offer free withdrawal treatment to anyone who wants it
And I believe our government should get its nose out of the business of other countries and close almost all our foreign military bases and a significant number of those at home. None of our post WWII foreign meddling has ever added to our national security, brought about more democracy in the world or achieved anything else worthwhile.
What the government should be doing is attending to our problems at home, investing in infrastructure, providing jobs and training while serving as the “employer of last resort” and providing affordable single-payer health insurance to all at sliding scale cost.
The government should also ensure that every public school has the same resources no matter where it is located, whether in a poor neighborhood or wealthy suburb. And it should ensure that every qualified student — and that means a B or better average in high school — can get the financial aid they need to graduate from any public college or university debt-free.
So the government has plenty to do without meddling where it does not belong.
As for our Colorado End-of-Life Options Act, it is quite conservative. It doesn’t go as far as I would like, but it’s a good start. It is modeled on similar bills passed in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and California. None of these states has had any problems, and Oregon passed its law more than 19 years ago and thus has quite a track record.
The proposed Colorado bill allows a “mentally capable” person who is terminally ill and certified by two doctors as having no more than six months to live, to request medicine for self administration that will bring about a peaceful death. Both doctors must certify that the patient has been fully informed about all other options, including pain management, palliative and comfort care, hospice etc. And the doctors must certify they believe the patient to be free of outside influence.
I truly hope enough of you will put on your libertarian hats and pass our end-of-life options bill this November.
Mary Boland’s column appears on the second Thursday of each month. She is a retired teacher and journalist, a proud grandmother and a longtime resident of Carbondale.
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