A Sick Doctor Shines Light on Assisted Suicide

Richard Wesley: typical of those who consider an early death
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2012 3:30 PM CDT
A Sick Doctor Shines Light on Assisted Suicide
Assisted suicide: used primarily by the white, well off, and well educated.   (Shutterstock)

The slow degeneration of a Seattle doctor is sad to see, but his plight shines a spotlight on surprising facts about assisted suicide, the New York Times reports. Richard Wesley, stricken with Lou Gehrig's disease, has only a short time to live—but thanks to Washington state's Death With Dignity Act, he has a lethal dose of barbiturates that he can take any time. And it turns out he's typical of those who use assisted suicide: educated, white, and financially well off.

That defies critics who feared poor people would kill themselves to spare their families medical bills. Turns out assisted suicide is more about people having control over death as they did over life, doctors say. Only 753 people have done it since 1997 in Washington and Oregon, the two states that approve assisted suicide, and about a third who get a fatal prescription never use it. Wesley, 67, seems glad to have the option: “It’s like the definition of pornography,” he says. “I’ll know it’s time to go when I see it.” (Read more assisted suicide stories.)

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