Sunday, June 22, 2008

Washington's right-to-die battle is personal

SEATTLE -- A looming battle in Washington state over efforts to create a right-to-die law for the terminally ill is a personal one for two men leading it, both of whom are ill. Fighting for the measure is a former governor who wants the freedom to exercise such a right; fighting against it is a former press secretary who can't imagine anyone wanting to.

The initiative would let a doctor prescribe lethal drugs to patients given less than six months to live. Oregon is the only state with such a law, which the Supreme Court upheld in 2006. Booth Gardner, 71, who served two terms as a Democratic governor in Washington, has Parkinson's disease and has declared this his "final campaign."

"There are people like me everywhere who are coping with pain -- they know that their next step is death," Gardner said in an e-mail interview. "When death is inevitable, we shouldn't force people to endure agonizing suffering if we don't have to."

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