This patient fortunately called Physicians for Compassionate Care instead of swallowing the poison. He died more than a year later, properly treated for depression, with good pain control, surrounded by people who reassured him his life was valuable. With the time he had left, he reconciled with his estranged daughter.
Which is the better, freer, more compassionate society? No law can give or take away the choice to commit suicide. Guns, poisons, noxious fumes, trains -- there is simply no way to stop suicide in people healthy enough to swallow. (Oregon's law requires the patient to self-administer his own poison.)
What Oregon's suicide laws actually do is convey social approval to individuals contemplating self-destruction, and to their friends and relatives. What advocates of "death with dignity" want is to overcome our cultivated horror at the idea of suicide by giving the decision to self-destruct a quasi-medical veneer.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.