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Assisted-suicide side funds Wash. proposal

WASHINGTON (BP)–Contributions by supporters of a physician-assisted suicide initiative in the state of Washington are outpacing those from opponents by nearly four to one, and nearly two-thirds of those pro-referendum gifts are from advocacy organizations and their representatives or a former governor and his family.

If approved by voters Nov. 4, Initiative 1000 would bring Oregon-like assisted suicide to Washington. Assisted suicide became legal in Oregon in 1997, making it the only state in the country to permit the practice. Legalized assisted suicide enables doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs for a patient but not to administer them.

Nearly $3.3 million had been given in support of the initiative, the “Yes on 1000” committee reported as of Oct. 10, according to the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. Less than $875,000 had been donated by foes of the effort, the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide reported.

Of the total of almost $3.3 million for the initiative, more than $2 million had been given by assisted-suicide advocates or Booth Gardner and his allies. Gardner, Washington’s governor from 1985-93, has Parkinson’s disease.

“Make no mistake, this is not a grassroots political campaign arising out of great urgency from the people,” bioethics specialist Wesley Smith noted on his weblog. “Rather, it is a carefully planned political move originating from out-of-state assisted suicide advocates looking for a ripe plum to pick.

“The mantra of the assisted suicide forces is ‘Oregon plus One,’ believing that if one more state falls, the wind will again be at their backs.”

Smith cited the 2007 report by the Death With Dignity National Center as the basis for his charge that the push for the Washington initiative is “a carefully planned political move” by assisted-suicide proponents from out of state.

The leadership of the Death With Dignity National Center, which is based in Portland, Ore., said in the report, “We have spent the last year actively researching and collecting data to determine the state which is most likely to adopt a Death with Dignity law. Through these efforts, we have identified Washington as the state most likely to move forward in offering its terminally ill citizens expanded options at the end of life…. We, at the Death [W]ith Dignity National Center, are proud to provide our political experience and expertise to these talented and committed people of Washington.”

Among the gifts in support of the Washington initiative, as reported by the International Task Force:

— $645,000 from Booth Gardner and his family.

— More than $626,000 from the Compassion & Choices of Washington Political Action Committee (PAC), a pro-assisted suicide organization.

— $300,000 from the Oregon Death With Dignity PAC.

— $200,000 from the Compassion & Choices Action Network.

— $115,000 from Compassion & Choices of Washington.

— More than $61,000 from the American Civil Liberties Union.

— $27,000 from the Booth Gardner Legacy Committee.

Abortion rights organizations also have signaled their support for Initiative 1000. Planned Parenthood of Washington and NARAL Pro-choice Washington endorsed the initiative in a joint e-mail, LifeNews.com reported Oct. 20. The National Organization for Women, also supportive of abortion rights, has endorsed the proposal as well.

Oregon has recorded 341 deaths by means of assisted suicide since its Death With Dignity Act took effect, according to reports from the state’s Department of Human Services. In 2007, there were 49 deaths by assisted suicide reported, marking a yearly high for the practice in Oregon.
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode.

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