Congratulations, Mr. Ambassador. You single-handedly overturned a legislative process that had been building for years, and derailed a thoughtful debate through your own intransigence.
I say again, how in hell did Peter Galbraith ever make a successful diplomat?
The subject here is the rapid and confusing turn of events on the Senate floor today. On Tuesday, the Senate voted 17-13 to advance a death-with-dignity bill toward a final vote. But Galbraith joined the majority only to keep the game going, as he planned to advance his own amendment that would completely gut the bill.
And thanks to the closeness of the vote, he had the power to do just that.
Note to Galbraith: Just because you have power doesn’t mean you ought to use it. I think that’s something they teach diplomats.
The original bill, shepherded by Sen. Claire Ayer, was based on the Oregon model. Oregon has allowed doctor-assisted suicide under strictly controlled conditions for fifteen years; it has worked exactly as intended, allowing a tiny number of people to end their lives after meeting tough criteria. It’s a carefully crafted system.
Galbraith’s substitute bill would simply indemnify a doctor who prescribes a lethal dose to a patient. Even I, neither a doctor nor a lawyer, can see lots of problems and unanswered questions there. If he was serious about this, he should have introduced it earlier in the session, instead of springing it on the Senate at the very last minute.
Galbraith insisted that his bill had the same intent as Ayer’s, but it had a completely different effect on the Senate vote. Opponents of the Ayer bill lined up in favor of Galbraith’s, while Ayer’s allies all voted no.
The vote means that the Ayer bill is now dead for this session.
Instead, the Senate’s only option is Galbraith’s hastily-drawn and very brief amendment that hasn’t been vetted by legal or medical experts. Supporters of death with dignity will face a tough choice: vote yes on a bill they don’t like — at all — or vote no and wait to fight another day.
I have a sneaking suspicion that Ayer’s opponents jumped on the Galbraith bill as a way to kill the issue, and that they will reverse course tomorrow and vote “no.” If they do, and if a single supporter of death with dignity can’t bear to vote for the Galbraith version, then the bill will die.
I know there are some GMDers who oppose death with dignity. And although I support the Ayer bill, my complaint isn’t over the fact of its defeat — but rather the underhanded way it was defeated.
They say that lawmaking is like sausage-making: a close-up view can cost you your appetite. That’s certainly the case here. And just as the nether regions of pigs play a starring role at the meat factory, this bit of legislative legerdemain featured a certain porcine sphincter in the lead role.
Talkin’ to you, Mr. Ambassador.