Former Gov. Pushes 'Right to Die'

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Washington State is on what he's calling his "final campaign." 

Former Governor Booth Gardner is pushing for a law that would allow terminally-ill patients to end their lives by physician-assisted suicide.

He is in his 70s, and suffering from Parkinson's. Still, he's using what strength he has left for this one last political crusade.

The issue gained national attention when Dr. Jack Kevorkian - nicknamed "Dr. Death" - claimed to have assisted in the deaths of more than 130 of his patients. He was later sent to prison for his actions.

Kevorkian was paroled last year because of his own failing health. And while he vowed not to assist in the suicides of any more terminally ill patients, he said he would continue to stump for right-to-die laws.

More recently, the story of Terri Schiavo brought the "right to die" issue to the forefront again.

The debate over whether or not to keep her alive became the subject of numerous court battles.

Her husband argued for years that Terri was in a persistent vegetative state and that she would want to die with dignity.

Terri's family fought to prolong her life, hoping for recovery or a cure. Ultimately, her feeding tube was removed, and Terri died.

Currently, Oregon is the only state which allows assisted suicide.

The former governor wants the law in Washington to mirror Oregon's.

That law allows assisted suicide for terminally ill patients who have less than six months to live.

It's a law that helped Julie McMurchie's mother end her battle with cancer.

"Having this choice at the end of life gave my mom great comfort. She was able to die on her own terms," McMurchie said.

Gardner says his battle with Parkinson's has opened his eyes, even though his law would not help him personally.

He said, "This is not about me. The initiative would not apply to me. I have Parkinson's and Parkinson's is not presently considered a terminal disease."

But not everyone is on board.

The issue is so divisive that Gardner's own son, Doug, opposes it.

"Yeah, I think it's even a bigger issue than just father-son. It's very difficult, complicated, complex, very personal issue," Doug Gardner said.

And a coalition set up to fight the former governor believes that assisted suicide could lead to forcing the disabled to end their own lives prematurely.

The current Washington governor does not support the initiative, but she has not said if she will work against it.

Still, Washington State is not alone -- the Wisconsin legislature is considering its own assisted suicide bill.

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CBN News
Mark Martin

Mark Martin

CBN News Reporter

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