Ann Jackson, who spent 20 years as CEO of the Oregon Hospice Association, is more familiar than most with Oregon’s Death with Dignity Law. She led the organization before and after the law’s passage, voting against the initial referendum, but in the years since its passage coming to support and advocate for aid in dying laws.. She is now an advocate for greater knowledge and discussion of end of life care. When it comes to Death with Dignity laws, she is in a unique position to provide information and context for whatever concerns people may have. Recently she brought this knowledge to Guernsey, a small British island off the coast of France.
Guernsey’s parliament, their equivalent of Congress, is currently considering legislation modeled on Oregon’s law. The bill is supported by Guernsey’s chief minister, Gavin St Pier, whose belief was shaped by his own father’s suffering and the end of his life. If enacted, Guernsey would become the first place in the United Kingdom, and one of the few in Europe to allow medical aid in dying. Readers of the Guernsey Press wrote in to voice their concerns and fears with the idea of having such a law put in place. The issues raised included safeguards against abuse or misuse of the law, complications from the medications, and cultural attitudes to end of life care. In response to these letters, Jackson issued a thorough explanation of the law, addressing each concern with facts and reason informed by her decades of experience in end of life care in Oregon. Because this is such an emotive issue, people can be quick to use fear and misdirection to make aid in dying laws seem sinister or cynical. The best responses, like Ms. Jackson’s, counter with facts and compassion.