Freedom to Die Without Religious Interference Remains at Issue in the USA

By Donald A. Collins | 31 March 2018
Church and State

Photographic illustration of a near-death-experience. (Jesse Krauß / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

At age 87 married to a 92 year old wife, both of us have a growing assortment of what to date are relatively minor aches and pains. So perhaps you won’t think it odd that we have thought deeply about what would be the most ideal way to plan for our inevitable deaths.

Recently we were both entranced and appreciative of a WETA program which ran on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 beginning at 9 PM which offered multiple ways that people can face their deaths. Funded, at what must have been considerable expense by the Thiel Foundation, this PBS film shows “Nine men and women who grapple with death. They come from all walks of life, all ages, the dying and the healthy, believers and skeptics, some recognizable, some obscure. They have been shocked into mortality and are forever changed.”

I recommend you read the article by Aysha Khan to get a more complete picture or go to to see the entire program.

To me various death options were vividly presented not in any religious context (i.e. do you have to be a “something” or are you told you might go to hell??) but rather as a gentle reminder that we should all have the freedom to choose our exit. This film is very graphic, showing bodies being incinerated. Is that something akin to hell on Earth? Again choice is the operative word here so if you’d like a cushy casket that’s dandy.

Naturally, we all can hope for various exits which include a merciful heart attack or dying gently in your sleep. That is versus our fear of a sudden stroke which leaves you connected to tubes and unable to decide for death unless that is well known and written about in advance.

Many people are unaware that you can finance a trip to the only country in the world that allows aliens to pay a low five figure cost for their exits on their own time, Switzerland, since 1937. After fulfilling considerable papers and making payment, the Swiss authorities take a video of you saying you want to die, give you the pills, watch you have a painless death and agree to send your ashes to whatever address you designate!

It is here worth mentioning that because of fixation of many Americans with multiple religious opinions from the sects which they inhabit against how we should be allowed to choose an exit, a brave nearly 20 plus year further option about death, an effort lead by Compassion and Choices which so far has only been enacted in 5 states and the District of Columbia.

C&C’s web site states that “Voters across the country overwhelmingly support giving terminally ill, mentally competent adults the option to access life ending prescription medication – yet it is not authorized in 44 states. To deny that option forces people to suffer through their final days when all hope is gone.”

As outstanding precedence for gaining approval in all US states, there is already the perfect nearly 20-year record in Oregon of MD panels authorizing the means for those people to take prescribed medicines to end life on their schedule. Surrounded by family and friends and not regarded as suicide (thus not affecting payment of insurance policies) such users gain the option to a humane exit.

Short of adopting the Swiss option which allows maximum freedom in the matter of choosing one’s exit, Compassion and Choices offers an achievable and sensible avenue to those who wish to use it. For more information go to:

Compassion & Choices
P.O.Box 101810, Denver, CO, 80250
800 247 7421

The issue is personal freedom to choose. Just as religious bigotry has impeded reproductive rights for women and their families both here and abroad, this option has had to overcome unjust interference in a strictly secular matter by those with differing religious views. I encourage you to add your name and tell your elected representatives at every level to help give terminally ill adults the right to end-of-life choice.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
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