Morality-free death coverage

euthanasia machineThe News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington, had an intriguing article last week on the Catholic Church's official opposition and efforts to raise funds to fight against the state of Washington's "Death with Dignity" campaign, as it is dubbed by supporters. The article focuses fairly exclusively on the Catholic Church's opposition to the campaign (which will be on the state's November ballot). There is a brief description of the proposal with a mention that it is modeled after an Oregon law. Here is a description from the article:

[Initiative 1000], patterned after a 10-year-old law in Oregon, would allow people with terminal illnesses to obtain prescriptions for lethal doses of drugs if two doctors agree the person has less than six months to live and is not just suffering from depression. Former Gov. Booth Gardner, who has given $170,000 to the campaign, is the measure's prime sponsor.

I am sure the News Tribune has covered this in previous articles, but I found this article unfortunately lacking in covering the voices of people who support the proposal. At the very least, the article's Web page should have a "related stories" section so that previous coverage of the issue can be easily accessed.

A reader of ours who submitted the article to us and lives in this "neck of the woods" had the following comment about the article:

All the coverage I've seen on this issue says that the Catholics are against physician assisted suicide, but no one mentions why. Neither do the mention that other Christians are also against the measure, or site any other Christian opinions, Evangelical or otherwise, of why they are against it.

Failing to cover the philosophical, legal and most importantly moral reasons of this issue are a fairly significant coverage gap. Again, perhaps other articles by the newspaper's staff have delved into the issue, but what is a reader to do who hasn't seen that coverage?

Washington also has an interesting history in this area. In 1997, then-U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist delivered the majority opinion holding that the state's prohibition against causing or aiding suicide does not go against the Fourteenth Amendment (see Washington v. Glucksberg). The state's law made it a crime to assist a suicide. While five other justices wrote their own opinions, they all agreed with Rehnquist that states could constitutionally make helping someone commit suicide a crime.

Justice Souter cited an article in his concurring opinion that suggested that guidelines for physician-assisted suicide in the Netherlands have resulted in the widely used and increasingly condoned practice of "non-voluntary euthanasia." Some have speculated that the high average age of the justices resulted in an opinion without dissents.

Somehow reporters should seek to investigate the issue of non-voluntary euthanasia when covering these stories. The consequences of this issue are still unraveling in other parts of the world.

Photo is of a now-unused machine that facilitated euthanasia through heavy doses of drugs used under a Wikimedia Commons license.

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