Naples News Daily DUSTIN HANKINSON. Guest essay … Dignified dying

July 26, 2011

By Dustin Hankinson Missoula, MT
Published Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The recent essay “Only Dignified When Dead?” by Stephen Mikochick of the Ave
Maria School of Law makes a number of false claims and inaccurate assessments about
aid in dying that I, an American living with a disability and supporter of Death with
Dignity, take issue with.

Mikochick refers to the recent statement by the U.S. Catholic bishops opposing end-oflife
choice in his assertion that it hinders patient autonomy, threatens disabled people
and vulnerable populations such as the chronically or mentally ill, and carries the risk of
involuntary administration.

This view contradicts the support of most Catholics and Americans for patients’ rights
at the end of life, and the rationale is flawed.

The Death with Dignity law sets out a detailed process under which only terminally ill
patients, meaning those with a diagnosis of less than six months to live, qualify.
Furthermore, those individuals must be deemed mentally and psychologically
competent by two separate physicians.

There is no room for error or slope-slipping, as it is the patient who has to pursue this
option for themselves.

No one is forced to die, just as no one should be forced to stay alive longer than their
body is able and their mind is willing.

I support the right of terminally ill adults — of any religion or no religion at all — to
make their own end-of-life decisions.

It’s one thing to state your position based on religious beliefs, but quite another to
falsify facts and impose those beliefs on every adult in the country.

We all deserve the autonomous decision to live a comfortable, dignified life right up
until the end, whenever that may be for each of us. Artificially eating, artificially
breathing, and enduring other painful and futile procedures to extend a terminal
existence will not bring us closer to God; only living as compassionate, caring people
can do that.

Hankinson has been a disability-rights advocate for over a decade. He has lived with
Duchenne muscular dystrophy for 36 years.

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