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Dollars to donuts that Compassion and Choices brought this story to the reporter: Apparently a pancreatic cancer patient wanted assisted suicide and couldn’t find a doctor to do the deed. (Note how the story reporter, Laura Kate Zaichkin, blatantly employs the usual pro-assisted suicide perspectives and buzz words, and somehow she forgot to include comments from any opponent of assisted suicide or a hospice professional to get a three-dimensional perspective on the situation.) From the story:

Stephen Wallace died at home Tuesday morning—but not on his terms.

The 76-year-old Benton City man, who was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer a month before his death, died in pain as the cancer spread to his kidneys, liver and lungs, making him unable to speak, stand or eat.

It’s exactly how he didn’t want to die. Wallace’s last wish was to be prescribed life-ending medication by a local doctor. He wanted to be able to take the medication himself and die surrounded by family in the home he built three decades ago. “My dad made up his mind a long time ago,” said Steve Wallace of West Richland, Stephen Wallace’s son. “There was no question. He knew what cancer could do to a person.”
Interestingly, when Dame Cecily Saunders, the founder of hospice was asked how she wanted to die, she said, “Cancer.” When asked why, she said that it would give her time to say goodbye and she knew that her symptoms would be controlled. And indeed, she did and they were.

The primary point of the story is to “shame” area doctors and hospitals to participate in assisted suicide. But there appears a secondary purpose as well—beginning to soften the ground to loosening the “guidelines.” (This same approach was taken early in the Oregon experience with a story brought to the Oregonian about how hard it was to get cancer and Alzheimer’s patient Kate Cheney, dead. But that story blew up in the assisted suicide movement’s face) But I digress:

“There was nothing. It was roadblocks.” Steve Wallace said. “Dying with dignity looks good on paper. But when you take it off the blackboard and try to apply it, it has no merit.”

Though a few doctors on the west side of the state are willing to participate in physician-assisted death, there seems to be no one in the Mid-Columbia, said Dr. Tom Preston, Compassion and Choices’ medical director. He said...doctors tend to want to avoid the paperwork requirements and instead keep end-of-life care between patient and physician, he said...

Nicole Austin, executive director of the Benton Franklin County Medical Society, a professional organization for doctors, said ...”The way (the law is) written, it might defer physicians from participating.” Austin said some items in the law, such as being required to list the patient’s underlying condition as the cause of death instead of participation in Death With Dignity, rub some physicians the wrong way.

Yes, the law requires doctors to lie about assisted suicides on death certificates. That way, no one can ever really know what’s going on.

Finally and predictably, the story becomes an advertisement for Compassion and Choices:

So what’s left to do for those who want to access the Death With Dignity Act. (State Hospital Association spokeswoman Cassie] Sauer said, “Compassion and Choices is the place that’s really going to help people.” But the organization is limited because it relies mainly on word of mouth to point patients to physicians who might help, Preston said.

Compassion and Choices encourages those who might want to use the act to start investigating sooner rather than later. The group provides a form letter on its website ( for patients to give their doctor to start the conversation about end-of-life wishes.
Why doesn’t C and C just put reporter Zaichkinon the payroll and be done with it? It would be more honest that way.

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