Thank you Thom; you are 'spot on.' Regardless of my religious views (or anyone else's), if someone wants 'death with dignity', they should have it. This is a health care issue between a patient and doctor/staff and NONE OF MY BUSINESS. Just like women's reproductive healthcare; provide it. Another woman's reproductive health is NONE OF MY BUSINESS.

Expand full comment

I live in Oregon. Unfortunately, our Death With Dignity covers only a few terminal

conditions. A person with Alzheimer’s doesn’t qualify. They have no choice but to live out their life as their brain leaves their body behind on some back ward of a memory care facility without any quality of life. This is NOT compassionate, dignified, or humane. Our animals get a more dignified death than people. Something is terribly wrong about this inhumane situation.

Expand full comment
Jan 24·edited Jan 24Liked by Thom Hartmann

The sister of a friend of mine down in Portland, who was a columnist for the Oregonian, was suffering from lung cancer, a particularly difficult way to exit the world. She decided that as soon as her complications started to become difficult to handle, she would drink the legal peace cocktail. She had friends over for a little farewell party, and then when the time came, she retired to her room with her closest family and went off to sleep and to all that comes next. Is this not so much better than agonizing through the tortures of end-stage cancer, leaving your loved ones with the memories of you in misery? Is this not much more life-affirming than a post-mortem funeral or wake? We're all heading to the same destiny. Especially in western culture, we need to eschew the terror and loathing of death as some kind of failure, and we definitely need to remove it from rigid religiosity and the capitalist greed of the medical industry. We need to be teaching our children from early on that we will someday leave the world, so we need to live each moment while we're here with gratitude, service and as much joy as we can muster. When it's time to go, those are the only treasures we can carry with us on our journey, leaving our friends and family with the memory of a life well lived. As Tecumseh said, "When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes, they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home!'

Expand full comment

Isn't it interesting that the people who talk the most about personal freedom and individual rights are the very ones who fight so hard against and stand in the way of the most personal and consequential decisions we ever have to make?

Expand full comment

It is the year 2023 A.D. and yet the culture from the dark ages is still with us. The dems need to run on death with dignity, everyone has a right to health care, everyone has a right to food, women have a right to abortion, old people have a right to social security, young people have a right to financial security, Americans need to work towards a Utopia not a dystopia, with campaign finance reform and a maximum wage 3 to 20 times the minimum wage. The right wingers want to go back to the dark ages, when they get there, they will be begging for another FDR.

Expand full comment

My wife was dying from an aggressive form of colon cancer, and we discussed finding two doctors to approve an end of life for her (her oncologist refused to be one of them). With a few months or so left, our health insurance provided a Home Hospice arrangement. She was kept comfortable with pain medication, and every few days someone would stop by to make sure she was okay. When death was near, the family gathered bedside. She departed this life with the Third of Strauss's Last Songs, one of our favorites, on the stereo, and in the arms of her daughter.

I now believe in the Home Hospice.

Expand full comment

I feel like being angry and cynical and adding this to list of how the Christianists and the death cult GOP screw us over. And so I will. I also am sending funds to my state chapter of Death With Dignity and will find a way to serve that cause. Please consider doing the same.

Expand full comment

We live in two different Americas. One ruled by quasi fascist, white, Christian nattionalists, the other by open minded, all inclusive, seculars.

Some of us are more fortunate than the others, but how long will it last? The quasi fascists are fanatics and are backed by billionaires and millionaires, who are hell bent on making all of America the same theocratic, racist, plutocratic country.

We are captives by our sources of income. My 2nd great grandfather settled in the tall pines of Ashley Co, AR and became a pig farmer. His son homesteaded 160 acres and then sold it for $160 to a carpet bagger that built a saw milll and a town named after himself, Crossett. Today it is owned by Charles Koch as the Georgia Pacific company's pulp mill and is, or was known, as Cancer Capital USA.

There is not a family in the town that hasn't experienced loss due to cancer, and many times, death of old age is a rarity.all of my 1st cousins, that stayed there,have died of cancer.

During WWII, my fathers brother and uncle moved to Cancer Alley along the gulf coast, to work in the oil refineries that were being built to service the needs of ships, airplanes and vehicles in WWII. They all stayed, except my father who was a Marine, and again every cousins family, down to four generations, that have stayed in the area have suffered cancer.

And no one moves, Men would rather die of black lung disease, than consider moving away from the mine and finding some other work. The same in Florida and other states where the quasi fascists have power and inflict their fears and laws on the rest of us.

Apparently having a source of income, is the impediment to escaping a harsh and unforgiving


The post WWII great migration of people, especially American Descendants of Slaves, from Mississippi and Alabama to the Great Lakes was possible because of the lack of income producing jobs in the south.

Today there is a reverse migration of citizens from the Clintonian rust belt, Great Lakes region,to the south, where tech, the defense, auto and airplane industries have built facilities, but this time it is mostly white.

I consider myself fortunate to live in a state that permits death with dignity and other human rights, Washington State, and not it's neighboring quasi fascist Idaho. But I worry how much longer that feeling of safety will last, when the theocratic fascists finally take full and total control of Congress and the Executive, they already own the Supreme Court and the House.

Expand full comment

Thanks Thom. My heart and prayers go out to Ellen. This is so wrong. How sad.

Expand full comment

While I agree with your cogent essay on suicide as

an option for the terminally ill, a recent article in the New Atlantis demonstrates how the notion of death with dignity might go wrong. Canada roughly has a population the same size as California. California had about 400 medically assisted deaths in 2021. Canada had over 10,000. Apparently a "quality of life," is allowed on a check list so that ostensibly, poor people with depression and uncomfortable but not life threatening conditions can qualify. Canada's safety net is not the economic freedom some imagine. A number admit "they don't want to die" but have no choice as bills pile up after illness and reduced income while economic aid is a lengthy bureaucratic process (as it is here) and they face homelessness. It may also be an avenue to put pressure on the disabled for this final alternative treatment. cf . "No other option." NEW ATLANTIS 01/23

Expand full comment

Once again, the questions we find being asked are, how far should government be able to go in regulating our lives; which people will be deciding what government’s role and approach will be, and to what extent is religious belief influencing the process. That “government which governs least” is a concept with great appeal. But if government is in place to advance the interests of the nation as a whole, to protect the vulnerable and the commons, and to defend against discrimination and the excesses of wealth and power, it must have power commensurate with its responsibilities.

Thou shall not kill is closely associated with religion and has been appropriated as a decree from above. But preserving lives is a more fundamental social and practical human imperative. With the issue of assisted suicide, the most careful scrutiny and analysis should be offered to the public for debate and for a collective decision, without the undue influence of sentimentality, religious belief, or the profit motive. It cannot be decided based on doctrine from a storybook or revered set of texts or on revelations presumed to be delivered from a deity. I wrote a paper pointing out my objections to making assisted suicide too easy, however I believe it must be an option in selected cases where a strong case has been made for mercy.

Just as with abortion, experienced and qualified medical experts should evaluate each situation in consultation with patients and family members and there should be no criminal prosecution without evidence of criminal intent and clear violations of established laws and a disregard for life or civil rights. There must be laws which account for exceptional situations and which deny government or law enforcement the ability to control or punish conscious and well-considered choices by individuals. Government that meddles nanny-style and is inclined to become intrusive or that is oriented toward intimidation and threats of punitive actions for personal decisions affecting citizens and not harming other (viable) citizens has overstepped its bounds.

This is the same essential principle I harp about daily with regard to education. It’s fine for government to put a splendid brand new school on every corner with the best of everything, and we should demand that government support schools and protect students from discrimination, abuse, neglect, or exploitation. However, the second there is a law which threatens to punish anyone inappropriately or without due process and solely based on arbitrary social or community standards imposed from above we are in very dangerous territory. Prosecuting citizens for refusing to avail themselves of a government service or for not accepting the prevailing conception of what education is or what schools provide can only lead to degradation of the very benefit or good that is sought. As soon as there is even a hint of coercion in the equation, a line has been crossed.

Expand full comment

Is there a legal defense fund for people in Ellen’s predicament?

Expand full comment

Thank you for addressing this incredibly important issue, Thom. It broke my heart to hear my Mom on her hospital deathbed in Alabama, begging to be put out of her misery, while staff refused to increase her dose of painkillers because "they might shorten her life." Her suffering lasted only for a few weeks, but it must have felt like an eternity to her at the time. It certainly did for the people who loved her.

Expand full comment

There is another legally protected way to commit suicide, and it's a nightmare for the family members. It's called VSED---Voluntary Stop Eating and Drinking. This is what passes as compassion in this screwed-up country!

I've been through this with my mom and sister under hospice conditions. It is a HORROR. It is an alternative when you cannot and should not have to take the pain anymore. From a group called Compassion and Choices:

"The Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed the right of a decisionally-capable person (meaning a person not suffering from an illness that would prevent informed decision making) to refuse any unwanted treatment including food or fluids, even if that refusal will result in death. This includes individuals who do not have a terminal illness."

Their website honestly describes the whole process, it just cannot describe the anguish of a long drawn out dying that took both my loved ones a full week, when it could have happened in an hour with less suffering. It is inhumane to sanction this and not some fentanyl, heroin, or barbiturates. As you said we are kinder to our pets. It's a shot and it's hard, but you know they didn't suffer.

Thom, Compassion and Choices is located in Portland. You might think about an interview with them. Our state changed the law (March 2022) to cover out of state people to use the physician system in place in Oregon.

Expand full comment