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Support the right to die (or another cause), and get me in shape

October 23, 2012

(Updated Oct. 24, 2012. See end of post.)

I have been a longtime advocate of legalizing voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide for the terminally and chronically ill. I have also been a longtime overweight, out-of-shape slug. I’ve decided to launch a personal campaign to do something about both, simultaneously. And I am asking for your help.

Two weeks from today, on November 6, Massachusetts voters will decide whether to give terminally ill adults the right to end their lives on their own terms, with a doctor’s help. If this ballot issue is approved, Massachusetts will become the fourth U.S. state (after Oregon, Washington, and Montana) to legalize the right to die.

I have been involved in the right-to-die movement ever since my father’s death in 1994 at the age of 51. He committed suicide with a shotgun after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis (and after fighting the disease for 11 years). He had informed my mom, my brothers, and me that he was going to do this, and we supported his decision. He would have preferred a more peaceful method of death, with a doctor’s assistance. But that right was unfortunately not available to him. It is still not available to most Americans, largely because of religious opposition but also because of opposition from many in the medical profession. That is wrong.

People who are suffering from incurable, often painful illnesses that rob them of their quality of life should be able to decide to die. Society should not force people to endure suffering against their will. That’s why I’m asking you to contribute to the right-to-die campaign in Massachusetts.

In return for your support, I am going to follow the lead of my friends who do charity runs, walks, or bike rides for cancer, arthritis, or asthma research. Here’s how it will work: For every 10 people who donate to the Massachusetts campaign (in any amount) on my behalf, I will run 1 kilometer, up to a maximum of 10 kilometers, sometime during 2013. So, if 50 people donate, I will run a 5K, and if 100 or more people donate, I will run a 10K.

To participate, please follow this simple two-step process:

  • Go to this secure web page to make your donation.
  • Contact me by email (mlewis10@msn.com) or through my Facebook page, or leave a comment on this post, to let me know that you made a donation. You don’t have to tell me the amount, but please do provide me with your contact information (email and postal mail).

I greatly appreciate your support in this. With a single donation, you can help create an important civil right for people in Massachusetts, propel me into better shape, and honor the memory of my dad. Thanks.

Click on the link below to view a photo of my dad taken a couple of months before his death:
Thomas Ray “Bus” Lewis, Born December 30, 1942, Died July 18, 1994

(Update, Oct. 24, 2012.)
My friends Merrilee Thomas and Erin Duncan raised a good point today. I probably have several friends like them who care about me and would like to make a donation to help get me in shape, but who don’t support this particular cause. And I very much hate excluding people. So I am changing things a little bit. Let’s say you can make a donation either to my cause, or to another cause or charity of your choice. Then let me know about it, and I will include you in the head count to determine how far I’m going to run. Now, obviously, I would prefer that you avoid donating to a cause that I oppose, like anything that promotes religion or a religion-backed cause like the “right to life.” However, people’s freedom of conscience and freedom of expression are far more important than trying to get people to believe the same way I do. So I will respect any cause you wish to donate to. And I thank you in advance for your support!

(Second update, Oct. 24, 2012.)
By the way, if you’re having trouble thinking of an alternate cause to donate to, you might consider hospice. Unfortunately, many hospice organizations oppose voluntary euthanasia. But the fact that hospices exist is still terrific, and they deserve support. The most important thing, after all, is making sure that dying people don’t suffer needlessly.

(Third update, Oct. 24, 2012.)
Here are three other organizations that focus on end-of-life issues, but that do not take a position on the question of voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide. They are focused on encouraging people to talk about and plan their end-of-life care in advance, and on ensuring that health care providers respect people’s end-of-life wishes. All of them are worthy of your support. (Thanks to Melissa Barber of the Death with Dignity National Center for making me aware of them.)

8 Comments
  1. Mike, this is a wonderful (and practical) thing to do in honour of your dad. My grandmother died this year of cancer. We knew it was terminal from the diagnosis, the chemo was just a means to prolong the inevitable. After being healthy and independent for most of her life, her last months were painful and she suffered a loss of dignity and control that nobody should have to experience in their last days. I wish euthanasia was legal – it’s the merciful thing we do for our pets and I see no reason why we shouldn’t have the same option should we want it. I live in New Zealand and I’m from South Africa, but these things need to start somewhere, so I’ll be donating to your effort and sharing this post. Wishing you the best!

  2. Can you tell us what the money will be used for, exactly? Can’t find information online.

  3. Ness, thank you so much. I am sorry to hear about your grandmother’s death, especially the way she had to endure that death, and I agree completely with everything you’ve written. Your donation will be used to support a political campaign in Massachusetts (one of the 50 states of the United States) to change the law there through the initiative petition process. (Maybe South Africa or New Zealand has something like the initiative process, either at the national level or at the provincial/regional level. I don’t know.) The campaign in Massachusetts is in its final days now, and the state’s voters will decide the issue on Election Day, November 6. The groups who oppose this issue are well-funded, so money needs to be raised to counter their efforts and get this issue passed. Here are some links:

    http://www.yesondignity.com/default.asp?c=525&p=1753

    http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/ele12/ballot_questions_12/quest_2.htm

    http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Massachusetts_%22Death_with_Dignity%22_Initiative,_Question_2_%282012%29

    By the way, I skimmed your blog the other day. It’s cool that you crossed part of the Pacific for love. And it’s always exciting to go live in a new country, no matter what the reason. (I went to Mexico to live for a while.) I also think South Africa has one of the most fascinating histories of any country on earth. Nelson Mandela is the moral leader of the world, in my opinion.

    Thanks again!

  4. Marc Loy permalink

    Good stuff on all fronts, Mike. I put a pledge in but got an error at the “receipt” page. I’ll follow up tomorrow to make sure it went through, but wanted to issue a public handshake and hearty thanks for bringing this campaign to my attention.

  5. Thanks Marc! I think your donation went through, because I just got an email receipt for your contribution. Much appreciated. And we are long overdue for a visit to catch up on life.

  6. Steve & Kathy Smith permalink

    Happy to help with this cause. Good luck in your training!

  7. Thank you, Steve and Kathy!

  8. Jerry A. Puckett permalink

    The right to die is the same as the right to live! Do we really believe clergy, law enforcement and the general public are concerned about the man or woman lying in a bed dying? The terminally ill with suffering, loss of dignity and pain lie suffering at the whelms of politicos and clergy. The same people who care less about homeless and starving people on the streets of many urban cities. The same measures forbade a century ago to prolong life should also be used to ease pain and suffering when no hope remains. Lets get the right to die on the books immediately.

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