By Hilary White

September 30, 2008 ( – Veteran Hollywood actor and leftist political activist Martin Sheen has produced a radio spot opposing assisted suicide legislation in Washington State. I-1000, a ballot initiative set for the November elections, proposes to allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to patients who request them.

Sheen said in his radio spot for “No I-1000” campaign, “It’s a step backwards and I urge you to vote no.” He called it a “dangerous idea that could hurt thousands of low-income people who need medical care.”

Out of state euthanasia activists, including those in Oregon, where assisted suicide has been legal since 1994, have thrown their support behind I-1000, hoping its passage will create a domino effect across the country. The initiative would redefine suicide as medical treatment and allow doctors to order lethal drug overdoses even if the patient is simply depressed.

Sheen warned the initiative would undermine efforts to provide quality health care for poor and low income disabled people, presenting medical insurers with suicide as a cheaper alternative. The initiative, he said, could “open up a loophole” in the law that could be used to “cut payments for the disabled and working poor, encouraging them to use assisted suicide.”

Opponents of the initiative point out that with private and public health insurers looking for ways to cut costs of health care, terminally ill patients are most vulnerable to “triaging,” in which further treatment is regarded as “futile” when suicide is available legally. In Oregon, the state health plan pays for assisted suicide but does not fund some chemotherapy for people with cancer.

Anti-euthanasia activists have urged support for the group Coalition Against Assisted Suicide, to help fund more television and radio spots to oppose the initiative.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said, “We cannot allow the euthanasia lobby to brainwash the public by running television commercials without a counter-point-of-view.”

Opponents to I-1000 have faulted it for creating a threat to vulnerable patients. In the proposed 15-day waiting period, they say, a depressed patient’s “cry for help” “could be met with a bottle of lethal drugs, instead of encouragement and treatment.” The proposal does not require family be informed of a patient’s request for suicide.

Martin Sheen is known for his support of nearly the entire canon of leftist political issues, campaigning for the extremist animal rights movement group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the radical environmentalist group Sea Shepherd against the Canadian seal hunt. But he is also a supporter of the so-called “Consistent Ethic of Life” theory popularized among left-leaning American Catholics by the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago. Supporters of this theory, also called the “Seamless Garment” theory, will sometimes oppose abortion and euthanasia, but hold it to be a moral equivalent to issues such as immigration, fair taxation, poverty and capital punishment.

To contact the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide:
Phone: (206) 337-2091

Read related coverage:

Washington I-1000 Initiative Most Important Vote in Nov. Election Cycle Says Anti-Euthanasia Leader

Oregon Euthanasia Activists Empty Coffers to Pass Washington State Assisted Suicide Bill

U.S. Catholic Pro-Life Leader Calls Bluff on Seamless Garment Approach to Pro-Life Politics