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Death On Demand

The right to die. Death with dignity. Assisted suicide. It’s the law in Oregon, Washington. It’s on the ballot in Massachusetts. We’ll look at “death on demand.”

Photo illustration. (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

Photo illustration. (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

Death comes in many ways.  Some beautiful.  Some terrible.  For some, unbearable.  Some states have voted to let doctors help ease the way.  The language itself is a battlefield:  right to die, “death with dignity,” assisted suicide.

A lethal prescription of barbituates – carefully considered, sipped yourself – and you’re gone.  It’s legal in Oregon, Washington.  Failed legalization efforts in California, Maine, Hawaii.  Now, it’s on the ballot in Massachusetts.

This hour, On Point:  A transcontinental conversation about how we do, should, and might die.

-Tom Ashbrook


Barbara Coombs Leepresident of Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding and protecting the rights of the terminally ill.

Edward Lowenstein, professor of anesthesia and professor of medical ethics in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Michael Grodin, director of the Medical Ethics and Human Rights Programs at Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, where he is also a Professor of Psychiatry, Family Medicine, Health Law, Bioethics and Human Rights.

From Tom’s Reading List

You can find the Massachusetts ballot issue here.

CBS “Supporters of the Die with Dignity movement are calling for that money to be returned, after controversial comments by an executive director that were posted on YouTube.”

Suffolk University “Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) supported the proposed Prescribing Medication to End Life law, which would allow Massachusetts licensed physicians to prescribe life-ending medication at the request of terminally ill patients meeting certain conditions.”

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  • WorriedfortheCountry

    Wait a minute — the death panels don’t go into effect until 2014.  Isn’t this a bit premature?

    Sorry — I couldn’t resist.  Gallows humor.

    • nj_v2

      Humor? That’s what that was supposed to be?

      Hopefully, you’re better at your day job.

    • 1Brett1

      As much as I don’t agree with your political opinions, Worried…come, guys, that was a little satirical humor, and I thought it was funny

  • Wm_James_from_Missouri

    If you have ever had the “good” misfortune to visit a nursing home and see the suffering and the face of death and despair, you would know why so many people would love to have the right to choose when and how they will die. I judge no one, when it comes to such decisions.

  • Ed75

    An administration officer in the New York Times spoke about death panels a week ago, ‘we can’t afford to pay for the very elderly’.

    Euthanasia is one of the intrinsic evils we can not support without disaster following. Not a good idea. It’s suicide, and suicide is not a good idea, nor a moral option. Of course, for one thing, the elderly will feel financial pressure to kill themselves. And now in Holland a certain percentage are killed without their consent.

    • jefe68

      You know you come on this forum and spout your regressive religious fundamentalism and for the most part I ignore it. But now you have stepped over the line and it’s clear that you’re not interested in reading what this is about. It’s not about euthanasia, it’s about people making very hard decisions do die with dignity. As to your completely hyperbolic statement about the Netherlands, it seems you are getting this from pro life web sites.

      • Don_B1

        Ed75 appears to be fatuously repeating Rick Santorum’s false charges in the Republican primaries on Holland’s euthanasia policies; see:


      • Ed75

        I guess I need to be more specific and detailed, and not use inflammatory words. Of course everyone wants to die with dignity, and no one wants to suffer when there is no point and no chance to get better.

        The problem with euthanasia is that it’s the direct killing of a person, and that’s gravely immoral. If someone is very ill, and there is no hope, there is no requirement to give extraordinary treatment, or to do everything possible to extend their life.

        What is required is that the person be given ordinary care, which includes food, water, and shelter (and not food or water if it hurts them). They should also be given, and it’s available today, pain medicine, which can deal with much of the pain.

        Sometimes someone is given pain medicine to deal with pain, where that is the intention, and they die from it, but that wasn’t the intent. But they needed the medicine to decrease the pain.

        But one can’t directly kill someone, which is euthanasia.

        I only mentioned Holland in passing, I think they were talking about people who were comatose who hadn’t signed anything, perhaps judges were making decisions for them. It’s bound to happen in such a system, but it’s not the main point. The problem as I see it is with euthanasia itself.

    • 1Brett1

      “…now in Holland a certain percentage are killed without their consent.”

      WHA? So, in Holland people are saying, “no, I don’t want to die,” but are being killed anyway?! Or they are being killed unwittingly? 

      Knowing your penchant for hyperbolic padding and out-an-out lies to bolster your position…can you provide some substantive evidence of people in Holland being “killed without their consent”?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507593666 Josh DeYoung

      nice attempt at fear mongering, and by “nice” I mean FAILED!

      Just for once I want you to put yourself in someone else’s shoe and think of them before yourself and picture this:

      You are going to die, you have lived a good life and now you are in your late 70′s or 80′s or whatever. But it is a fact that in the next week to month you are going to die. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, medicine can do to stop it. All you want to do is say your good bye’s to friends and family and then fall asleep and never wake up in this life again. However you can’t because there is this guy out there who thinks your decision about your own life is wrong and he knows what is better for you. So instead you spend the next three weeks in unexplainable pain or so drugged-up that you don’t know where you are half the time. Your family stops by everyday, at first, until they have to get back to their lives and then when your time does come your daughter does not get there in time and misses her chance to say goodbye.

      Next time before you speak up think about the value of your opinion and if it is worth more then my freedom to decide whats best for my life!

      Also just because it is legal does not mean you have to do it. If you choose not to, I support that choice as much as I do for anyone who would choose to.

      • Ed75

        I guess I need to be more specific and detailed, and not use inflammatory words. Of course everyone wants to die with dignity, and no one wants to suffer when there is no point and no chance to get better.
        The problem with euthanasia is that it’s the direct killing of a person, and that’s gravely immoral. If someone is very ill, and there is no hope, there is no requirement to give extraordinary treatment, or to do everything possible to extend their life.
        What is required is that the person be given ordinary care, which includes food, water, and shelter (and not food or water if it hurts them). They should also be given, and it’s available today, pain medicine, which can deal with much of the pain.
        Sometimes someone is given pain medicine to deal with pain, where that is the intention, and they die from it, but that wasn’t the intent. But they needed the medicine to decrease the pain.
        But one can’t directly kill someone, which is euthanasia.
        I only mentioned Holland in passing, I think they were talking about people who were comatose who hadn’t signed anything, perhaps judges were making decisions for them. It’s bound to happen in such a system, but it’s not the main point. The problem as I see it is with euthanasia itself.


    • J__o__h__n

      Isn’t keeping people alive long past their ability to live without extensive medical aid also violating god’s will?

      • Ed75

        Very true, if someone is very ill, and there is no hope, there is no requirement to give extraordinary treatment, or to do everything possible to extend their life. 
        What is required is that the person be given ordinary care, which includes food, water, and shelter (and not food or water if it hurts them). They should also be given, and it’s available today, pain medicine, which can deal with much of the pain.

    • Don_B1

      Without a LINK, there is NO WAY to determine in what context that statement was made. Therefore, I will assume you either made it up or took something about the increasing costs of Medicare and how a lot of the procedures presently paid for are NOT effective but cost a lot, which IS something that can and MUST be reduced.

      Your history of twisting statements beyond belief is enough to make your comments worth NOTHING.

      You have no credibility or integrity, so do you want to contaminate your professed religion, too?

      • Ed75

        I don’t get what you mean by ‘link’, but I agree that the costs have to be brought down. Mainly though I was referring to the moral question of euthanasia, which is the direct and intentional killing of another person.

        With the economy getting worse, where just staying in the hospital without treatment costs huge amounts of money, the temptation of euthanasia will be great for policy makers. We’ll see what happens.

        A person doesn’t require extraodinary treatment, but has the right to ordinary care: food, water, and shelter (unless the food or water would hurt them), and pain medication.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/QLNJB2C4E2JSI6J7X2DLPC2354 Joanna Blaidd

          “Link” means you post the URL of the page where you read the inflammatory comment, so people can see the context for themselves. 

  • LinRP

    It may be a tired adage, but you wouldn’t let a dog suffer the way my father did at the end with lung cancer. He wanted to go, there was NO alternative ending for him but death, no hope for any sort of recovery, just prolonged pain and suffering.

    I feel that people who are against allowing others to choose their own ending in their own way, have never spent one minute with someone lingering in hopeless, drawn out, true agony.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/Y7X5MAX7JX7YOPXSWOGEPT737A Timothy

    The title of this installment, “Death on Demand,” has a catchy alliteration at the cost of unnecessarily fanning the flames of drama for the serious topic being discussed. Is the hyperbole for ratings? The tabloid headline feels like an obstacle for intelligent and thoughtful discussion. 

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    Chronic pain can drive one mad. It can match and exceed the levels of pain inflicted by torture, yet we have laws that force individuals to endure it, keeping them alive with medicines and machines… to what end? To torment those poor souls indefinitely? Sounds like a vision of Hell filled with demons with fire and pitch forks.

    Talk about infringement on human rights. Why isn’t the Republican party all about this keep-the-government-out of my life issue?

    The hypocrisy of the Republican ideology sickens me, especially as the pain and suffering their thoughtlessness inflicts is easily understood by anyone who has one iota of compassion.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kyle.rose Kyle Rose

      Why is everything Team Red/Team Blue for you? The difficulty of obtaining pain medication for chronic pain is a result of the drug war, something supported by BOTH major parties.

      • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

        Because I believe that it is extreme right religiosity inserting itself via politics into this issue of self determination that is at the heart of lack of progress on this issue.

  • 1Brett1

    On the one hand, I’m disappointed in On Point for the headline at the top of this page. It reduces the issue to something trivial and simplistic, creating a black and white approach to such a complex and difficult topic. 

    On the other hand, On Point is a modern news/media outlet relying on sensational headlines that diminish topics to a point-counterpoint ping-pong match.

    “Death on demand”! On Point’s “introduction” up top is just six short sentences long (and the first four could really be one sentence), and they use the phrase, “death on demand,” twice, putting it in a realm of consumerism on par with cable tv programming acquisition. 

    I hope the show itself employs better framing and discussion of the issue.

    • nj_v2

      I’m on the verge of not spending any more time with OnPoint because of stuff like this.

      It’s becoming mostly just another sensationalist, mainstream blather outlet.

      • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

        Agreed. The quality of the program has declined recently, with the tone becoming much more sensationalistic and almost, at time, childish. Additionally, some moderation of the comments to try to raise the level of discussion would not go amiss.

    • BHA_in_Vermont

       I agree. Tom, if you are given these messages, please pay heed. We do NOT need “CSI On Point” sensational and INACCURATE headlines.

      If I lived in Oregon, I COULD NOT go to a doctor and demand a life ending prescription because I have no condition that would meet the criteria. “Death by Demand” sounds like any person could have a doctor give them a pill they can take to die if they get depressed about something.

      Any able bodied person can create their own “death by demand”. Take a long walk on a short pier when the rip tides are running. You will drown.

      Death with Dignity has NOTHING to do with “Death by Demand”

  • Gregg Smith

    I suggest something along the lines of Vonnegut’s “Welcome to the Monkey House”.

  • Shag_Wevera

    After years of elder care and hospital work, I have come to believe this choice should be made by individuals, and not by institutions.

    Lots of vested interests in keeping folks alive to the bitter end.  Do you have any idea how much money is extracted from the elderly in their final days?  In my area, mediocre assisted living is FIVE THOUSAND dollars a month.  This does NOT include medical care or hospice service.

    I will save my wife and children the pain and expense when the time comes.

  • MKJ1972

    It’s not death on demand. It’s choice on demand. And there is nothing more inherently American than that. The patient isn’t asking for death. He or she is asking for a prescription. That’s it. One piece of paper gives that patient a choice. They either take it or they don’t. We’ve seen in Oregon that most people don’t. Either way, they die with their freedom intact.

    • Henryfromwayland

       Absolutely correct. The freedom to choose to end your own life when you have intractable suffering is a basic human right. 

  • http://medicalethicsandme.org/ Carol L. Powers

    I am the Co-Chair of an organization called Community Voices in Medical Ethics, Inc.  As a facet of our work, we have developed a Community Ethics Committee – a diverse group of volunteers from the greater Boston community who, for the past six years, have commented on the medical ethics issues arising within various hospital settings.  We have published a White Paper on the topic you are discussing today – what we called Choosing Medically Induced Death.  I am providing the web link where you can find the White Paper, an Executive Summary, and a Conversation starter.  

    In examining this “hot topic,” the Committee agreed on two things – first, that a strong palliative care service needs to be established in every hospital and care center; and second, that the Conversation about these end of life issues is key to a well-functioning society and we hope a reasoned and non-polarized discussion will continue, regardless of the outcome of the November 6 vote.  We also hope the public conversation will encourage everyone to embrace the MOLST program, recently initiated in Massachusetts as a way for us to have these challenging but necessary discussions with our doctors and health care providers before death looms close.

    We look forward to listening to your Conversation.

    Carol L. Powers

  • J__o__h__n

    “Death on Demand” trivializes this topic.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    The problem that I have with this is the requirement to go through a doctor.  I don’t have to ask permission to make decisions about my life.  Fortunately, other options remain available in most states.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000894438466 Charles Miller

    Anyone who has seen a victim of ALS slowly suffocate on his/her own lung secretions and be unable to express this experience might be a bit interested in a more dignified way to die.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    It’s still illegal under Federal law, no?  Something like medical marijuana in California.

    • 1Brett1

      I think that’s a good comparison, in terms of Federal vs. State law. 

      • Gret88

        I believe Attorney General Ashcroft challenged the Oregon law when it was passed, and Ashcroft lost in court.  So that would affect Federal law, or at least its enforcement.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1017927756 David Gomez

    Our society allows us to decide when it’s time for our pets to be put down. Why can’t we decide for ourselves as humans when we’ve had enough pain and/or suffering?   

  • Michael_Fior

    We say that it is our “moral duty” to end the suffering of our companion animals – though we are unable to truly know what they are feeling.  But we also say that it is our “moral duty” to maintain human life, no matter how painful or hopeless.  Do we have greater sympathy for our pets than we do of our fellow humans?

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       Human life is worth nothing more than a pet’s?  Besides, we make decisions about our pets; they don’t get to choose.

      • J__o__h__n

        Who owns us as pets?  We should make our own choices for ourselves.

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

           My point exactly.  Michael_Fior implied that pets and humans are on an equal level.

          • Michael_Fior

             No, but I am saying that we appear to give more consideration to the suffering of a companion animal, than we do to that of a human, who we say we value more highly.  If an individual wants to end what they see as unbearable suffering, how can we say they can’t, when we are willing to end the suffering of what some see as a lesser life?

          • 1Brett1

            It was fairly obvious that if Michael was implying anything, it was that we often act more humanely toward our suffering pets than to allow a dying individual his/her desire to end his/her own life. Now, your point seems to imply that humans and pets are not the same animal of the same worth. 

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

             Correct.  Humans and other animals are not worth the same.

  • skeptic150

    I believe the option should be available – if I were terminally ill and suffering, I would want the option. To deny people this option is barbaric and cruel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1638840841 Madeleine Kando

    Tom, your tone in this interview was a bit hostile. Why? Are you against this? It would be better to be a bit more neutral. Your choice of questions sounded like your interviewee was on trial. It was not to my liking.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Lee is saying, trust us.  We know best.  Doctors know the technical details of medicine, but they’re far too often unwilling to explain the drug or the process.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Death with dignity is a misnomer.  A dignified death would be dying while saving someone else or fighting for one’s country.  This is easy death or chosen death.

  • TinaWrites

    Question for on line (if possible):

    If you truly qualify — you ARE dying and will be dead within a few short months; if you are truly in too much constant, horrible pain and need to escape it thru death, WILL YOUR LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY BE REQUIRED TO PAY OUT THE FUNDS THAT THEY WOULD OTHERWISE TO YOUR BENEFICIARIES????  (a very important consideration:  some people may endure horrendous pain rather than deprive their loved ones!!!!)

    Thank you!

    • Gret88

      In Oregon, if a terminal patient who has, for instance, lung cancer, chooses the prescribed barbiturate option, the cause of death on the death certificate is still listed as lung cancer.  That is stipulated by law.  So if an insurance policy has an exception for suicide, this would not be a problem.  I researched this when my mother got terminal brain cancer.  She was not fortunate enough to live in Oregon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eric.a.stratton Eric A Stratton

    What checkpoints are in place to prevent abuse of this law. What about protections for special populations? Protections of benefits and life insurance? What about an obligation for physicians to “do no harm”?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Patrick-Dwyer-Jr/100002088204784 James Patrick Dwyer Jr.

    My wife died after a 5 year struggle with cancer. I watch her slowly go from a active woman to someone who was bedridden and in pain. She weighed only about 60 pounds when she died. I promised her that I would not let her suffer, I am a Vietnam vet and death is no stranger to me, but I could not end her life and that has haunted me for a long time. I just couldn’t do it. We absolutely need help with this.

  • sheryltr

    I watched my mother die a horrible death from Creutzfeldt Jacob Disease. Her last breaths were painful to watch and couldn’t have been less painful to experience. A month later I had to put down a beloved dog, and I was struck by the difference in the two deaths. My dog was allowed a swift and painless death with the dignity that the system will not allow me when it is my time. I do not believe in god and I don’t want my death controlled by those who do.

  • Yar

    Death with dignity would be the ability to terminate payment for medical service at the point a patient no longer feels the service is worthwhile.  I bet patients die much more quickly once their assets are used up.  Any person who has the right to own a gun should have the right to end their own life by less violent means. Just having the option for terminal patients may make life more bearable.  Pain becomes unbearable when a patient doesn’t know where it is going or how much worse it going to get.

  • J__o__h__n

    I agree with the ad’s statement – ” You should never make a life or death decision based on someone’s guess.”  It is very ironic that this ad is being run by a group willing to impose its own life or death decision on others based on unproven religion.  What is more of a guess than religion?

    • Gret88

      This “someone’s guess” thing totally demeans the victims, as if someone would make such a decision based solely on a diagnosis–oh, I have liver cancer? well, ta ta!–as if a late-stage terminally ill person can’t tell they’re going to die, and is just blindly following some know-it-all doctor, as if all medicine is quackery and “guessing,” as if it’s better to have people endure suffering while hoping for a miracle cure, just like in the movies.  Neo Torquemadas, all of them, who think suffering (of other people) is necessary to make a better world.  It just makes me want to barf.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maureen.cotton.7 Maureen Cotton

    Ideologically, I support people having the choice. My vote is undecided only because I wonder about the logistics. I would love to know for the states where it’s legal: How long is this process? How long do patients often hold on to the medication before taking it? I would vote yes if I felt confident that the process gave people lots of time to consider, and couldn’t be complete within a particularly difficult week or month which can come during the course of an illness, when they might possibly have a few more good weeks or months in which they could have final conversations and other closure that would provide a meaningful death.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    We’ve been told that Massachusetts has a wonderful healthcare system that the whole country needs.  What’s this guy worried about?

  • tncanoeguy

    How was this issue treated in the past?  Did the ancients have assistance at the end of life? 

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       They didn’t have the kind of medical care that allows someone to linger with a terminal illness.  In many cases, they were also willing to do things for themselves.

      • 1Brett1

        Agreed. If they did have a terminal illness, they might have only lingered for weeks as opposed to today’s months or years. Some probably also had assistance, and in those cases there weren’t the complex legal ramifications associated with such assistance, right or wrong. We really can’t compare ancient society to today’s with any specific comparisons and expect we will glean any helpful answers. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

    I wonder how many opponents of medically assisted suicide have been indoctrinated by old, institutionalized puritan ethics which insist that unbearable suffering & agony are the keys to entering heaven?   

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/QLNJB2C4E2JSI6J7X2DLPC2354 Joanna Blaidd

      I haven’t actually heard anyone make that argument yet. I would imagine that many are like myself — all for effective pain relief but concerned that dying people will be pressured not to be a burden on their families. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

        Pressured by whom? Their families? The medical/financial establishment? The- gawd forbid- government? People with dementia may be “troublesome” to caregivers but I doubt that they’ll decide to either die or keep on living, in droves, because of a new state law that lets intelligent, experienced humans help them to move onward, when & if they’re asked to assist. Life is a marvellous & precious experience. Let’s not forget that it ends, quite naturally. as well. For all of us. I do not believe that extended, unwanted suffering is in any way enobeling to the human Spirit no matter what “the family” wants.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/QLNJB2C4E2JSI6J7X2DLPC2354 Joanna Blaidd

          Yes, pressured by families and the medical establishment. I’ve seen in my own life how cruel family members can be towards someone who is dying, and I’ve seen how people in the medical profession can put pressure on dying people and caregivers to “let go” even when the issue is *not* ridiculous, expensive, last-ditch treatments but something more modest, like a few rounds of antibiotics or continuing with twice-weekly dialysis that’s been working so far. I think there is reason to be concerned about creating a cultural climate in which dying people’s final days aren’t valued and in which dying people are urged to believe that they’re a burden. I know that isn’t the intent of this bill but I fear that this bill is a significant step in that direction. 

  • 65noname

    let me see if I have this right; first, people are dying because they can’t afford medical treatment because they can’t afford health insurance.  Then, as they are dying, often with extreme pain (and, of course, not being able to afford pain meds) they should not be allowed to die with dignity.
    Don’t you just love these guys?

  • Sandstone3

    My dad succumbed to pancreatic cancer.  His death process was one of the most beautiful of experiences I have ever had.  I have issues with the church and always have.  My dad was a permanent deacon in the Catholic church.  His death process gave me such insight to his belief system and why he, as a Catholic, so fervently professed his faith.  I can’t stress how amazingly transformative it was. Some background on my dad – he had a massive coronary 37 years before he died.  He was not expected to survive that.  He had bypass surgery and a few incidents of congestive heart failure.  He eventually got a pacemaker.  He got spinal stenosis and trigeminal neuralgia (both incredibly painful diseases).  No non-surgical treatment was effective.  Between his health and the numerous medications he was on, there was always a balancing act of treatment options.  Surgery (for the trigeminal neuralgia) was considered too risky.  The man lived his live in pain.  He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 13 days before he died.  We took him to a ‘hospice home’, an incredibly compassionate experience where family and friends are allowed to focus on what the really important things are.  Unlike Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, my dad’s death experience was the exact OPPOSITE of “not an expression of compassion, it is a flight from compassion.”  This man had been ready to die for years if not decades.  He did just this at age 82.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/QLNJB2C4E2JSI6J7X2DLPC2354 Joanna Blaidd

      Your comment is so moving — I wish I had known your father, and I wish I could hear more about the experience you had with him. I took care of my father with home hospice as he died from colon cancer, and the way we bonded and took that journey together — until we reached the point where he had to go on alone — was one of the peak experiences of my life. He felt the same way. Before the end, he told a friend that the suffering of the cancer had all been worth it to him “because I got to know my daughter.” But along the way, I had to contend with things like a family member calling me at the crack of dawn to scream at me that I was an idiot for taking on this “burden” and that he belonged in a nursing home. There were other, sometimes shocking pressures as well. My father didn’t know about these battles because I shielded him from all that. But I worry that assisted suicide could lead to a situation in which patients are steered towards “not burdening the family.” 

      • Sandstone3

        Thankfully, my sibs and I were all on the same page.  On a conference call with doctors, we made the decision together.  Afterwards, one brother wanted to continue his pneumonia meds (for ease not for prolonged life).  My dad & I locked eyes when hospice went to administer.  He said ‘Let me go. I want to go. LET.ME.GO.’.  End of meds :)  He believed he was ‘going home’ to God.  Truly ‘going home’.  So, in his mind, life was not ‘ending’ the way we think of it.  It was continuing/beginning anew.   I’m grateful for the additional years we did as I got to realize how much he loved me.  I was 15 when he had his first heart attack.  I was about to turn 42 when he died.  I’m sorry you had such issues with your family.  OMG – just realized that was 27 yrs, not 37!

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    The principle here is the right of people to choose for themselves.  My body is my own, and I have the right to do with it as I please.

    • burroak


    • Gret88

      This is not just about whether you can end your life, but how. Even if you have a right to choose for yourself, you do not have access to the drugs that make such a choice more comfortable and painless. This particular law is about whether you should be forced to use a gun or a car or a noose or throw yourself off a bridge, etc., or whether you can choose to die peacefully at home in your sleep with your family nearby.  Most people–particularly aged, frail, ill people–will not opt for a violent suicide, but will endure suffering instead.  This law is to allow their doctors to give them a better option.

      • 1Brett1

        Great point!

  • Annie Tye

    Tom cited someone who feels that death should come to terminally ill patients in a manner that is consistent with a natural death.  This is an absurd argument, given that the majority of patients who die of cancer likely underwent years of treatment to extend their lifespan.  A natural death would preclude the initial medical interventions.  This is not an issue that anybody other than a patient and their loved ones should be able to influence. 

  • Scott B

    This is about doctors that don’t want to admit that life ends. That they don’t have all the answers. And it’s about family that can’t let go. Both hoping that the suffering person can hold on just one more day that there’s hope for them. It’s selfish and cruel.

    We, as a society, don’t let our animals (our best friends who give unconditional love) suffer, but this same society thinks that letting someone suffer unnecessarily to preserve “life”, regardless of the quality of that life.

    There’s a place in pain that is beyond where anyone should ever go, and to let anyone suffer, let alone a loved one, to fight the inevitable just because it’s life, is unconscionable.

    BTW- I am speaking as a son whose had to decide to let two parents let go of this world.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       But the pets don’t have a choice.  What you wrote sounds like you want others to decide if it’s time for a person to die.

      • Scott B

        No. I made no such statement.  The people being discussed are all requesting it.

        But that being said, I have been there, not just for my parents, but an uncle and grandparents, when the doctors have told me and my family that there’s no hope. My uncle was brain dead, and we decided as a family to let him go. Years later, with each of my parents, it came down the palliative care.  No amount of care was ever going to bring them back. 

        With my mother it was just watching her circle the drain, but it was peaceful for her and she did not suffer. Yes, I could have had her on respirators and all manner of treatment, but why? 

        My father, had he been able to step outside of the body he was trapped in, would have put himself down, and I know that through many conversations with him throughout my life. 

        Again, too often it’s arrogance of doctors trying to fight the inevitable, and family that doesn’t want to let go of the person they new in the past. The fact is people die. We can’t change that. But we can make it better for their passing.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/QLNJB2C4E2JSI6J7X2DLPC2354 Joanna Blaidd

      No, it isn’t about people hoping to help people hang on longer. When my father was dying, I was hoping it would end *soon*. But I was glad I got to be there for him as he went through the process of natural death. I put up with a lot of pressure from healthcare providers, social workers and family members who urged me to be less involved, not to take care of him and let him die at home but put him in a nursing home, etc. It was really rough but I stuck to my guns and in the end he died at home as I had promised he could. I’m concerned about creating a societal context in which “He should be in a nursing home, not burdening his daughter with all this!” becomes “He should take a pill, not burden his daughter with all this!” I understand that you disagree, but please don’t mischaracterize what motivates those of us who are afraid of this law. 

      • Scott B

         There are always going to be people with a accusing finger pointed at you, questioning your decisions. 

        I took a lot of grief from people, most  of which were far removed from the situation and any knowledge of it, about moving my mother to a home. One flat out said “In our family we take care of our own!”  I had to remind her that she wasn’t family and that we had our own reasons for doing what we did, including knowing our mother’s wishes. That shut them up.

        My mother cared for my dad right up to the day he died in his bed in the living room. Her choice, and it was right for them.

        When mom’s health became an issue my sister thought that my sister’ situation would be better than ours to take care of mom. She tried valiantly  but it just wasn’t possible, and I was charged with getting her the proper care back up here, which was a nursing home.

        She only lasted a year upon her return, but she had far better care, and a far better quality of life, than me or my family could have provided.  At the end it was palliative care.
        The medical staff at the home was very nice in explaining that my mom’s health was past the point of even leveling off, and asked what I wished to do. They did remind me that she had a DNR, but  that wasn’t really the issue. They wanted to know if I wanted her on various medical equipment now, or if palliative care was ok with me. 

        Mom died New Year’s night after I had spent the last few hours with her at her bedside, talking to her about the great life we had as a family.

         The funny part (yes, there’s humor found in the most unlikely times and places) is that my mom was always notoriously late for everything. My dad would say she was going to be later for her own funeral.  When the home called I told my wife, “You know what’s going to happen? I’m going to go down there and she’s not going to die until I walk back in the door.”  I sat by her for several hours in the middle of the night until I absolutely had to get home and get some sleep so I could get the kid off to school after my wife went to work.  Not one minute after I climbed into bed the phone rang.  Somewhere I imagined my dad laughing and saying, “Close enough!”

    • Sandstone3

      It’s the Catholic church I tell you.  The Catholic church.

      • Scott B

        Yeah, actually. Had she been in a state run French hospital it wouldn’t have been an issue. But the clergy valued “life” as life, and no thought beyond it.  I wonder how many of those garbed idiots would have thought the same way it is was them slowly dying in agony?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=731895589 Keri Adams

     ‘Sanctity of life’ is religious code for ‘we know best and will tell you what you will do with your life, from conception to death.’  I believe in the sanctity of life also, but from a more ‘spiritual’ perspective – humans are competent actors, capable of making their own decisions, living – and dying – with their own definition of grace and dignity. 

    • Gret88

      I agree, and I believe that those who seek to reduce “life” to the mere presence of a heart beat and respiration, regardless of suffering, are the ones who devalue it.

  • Sandstone3

    People need to read the bill along with an article in the Boston Globe Magazine in May.  It addresses the Oregon stats and those who DO use the prescribed meds once they have them.  They use them MUCH LESS often than the opponents propose.  It is geared toward adults (according to the bill).  Palliative care needs to be adopted in this country.

  • http://www.facebook.com/holly.ladd1 Holly Ladd

    I have ALS.  I believe that the choice about when and how to die should be mine.  I have a trusting relationship with my doctor and my partner. I do not have any doubt that we will know when the time comes. 

  • CambridgeMomofthree

    If suicide is a choice, there may be too much pressure to make that choice. That is already an issue.

    My mother died 5 years ago of breast cancer, at 73 years old. Before her
    cancer, she was extremely active, healthy and vibrant. She had never
    been hospitalized before, and had never consumed any public, or health
    care, funding that I know of. She wanted to live as long as she possibly could, and was willing to go through whatever difficulties or pain that that took.

    She also had a NYC doctor who was an angel and understood her desire to try whatever might be available to her.

    her local NJ doctor was pressuring her to “go with dignity”. He wanted
    her to leave the hospital, not do any more treatments, presumably to
    free up a bed. He assured us, her 4 daughters including 1 MD, that “she would not feel any pain if we discontinued fluids”. HOW DID THEY KNOW? Did they have people return from the brink of death and assume them that?!

    It took 4 very well-educated to resist their pressure to end her life prematurely.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/QLNJB2C4E2JSI6J7X2DLPC2354 Joanna Blaidd

      That’s precisely what I’m worried about. My best friend’s father went from wanting to live to wanting to die after just one meeting with a doctor who, my friend believes — she wasn’t in the meeting — painted a ghastly picture of what it would be like if my friend’s father needed help from his family with bodily functions and bathing. She feels her father was pressured to “let go” when he could have lived longer by continuing twice-weekly dialysis; he stopped it and died a few days later. 

      In my own case, as I was taking care of my dying father, I had to contend with a doctor who scolded me to ‘stop being selfish and let him go’ when, after a lot of soul-searching to try to guess what my unconscious father would want, I chose to treat one infection with antibiotics (my father later regained consciousness and told me I’d made the right call; a few days later he decided that the *next* infection should not be treated, and I agreed to follow his wishes). I also had my mother phoning me in my father’s hospital room at 7:30 in the morning to scream at me that I was an idiot for doing so much to take care of my father and that I should stick him in a nursing home. After everything I’ve seen, I have no faith that patients will not be pressured by healthcare workers, social workers and family members with their own agendas. I think the danger of a slippery slope is very real. 

  • Susan Grant

    We don’t choose to let our beloved pets stagger on to the bitter end, in pain and miserable. We put them to sleep, and consider this “humane.” So why do we expect our parents and loved ones to suffer until they finally expire? Surely, if they would prefer to die with dignity (i.e. with the right to make a choice for themselves) then it surely should be the law throughout the U.S. 

  • Thinkin5

    I think it’s strange that people “put down” an animal that is suffering from fatal illness or injury and call it being “humane” but get really upset at the thought of a person suffering the same way and wanting to end it.

  • jcmason1

    When you are very ill, a small dose of morphine will kill you because it suppresses the respiratory system. This silent euthanasia happens every day all across the country. Both of my Catholic parents died this way in Catholic hospitals and every medical professional in the room knew it. It’s time we acknowledged the reality.

  • mhanau

    This “good death,” which is ostensibly less painful for the patient, may be seductively less painful for the patient’s family and for society. It is a slippery slope from Physician Assisted Suicide to institutionalized, societal control of the end of life, as in Huxley’s Brave New World.

    • Gret88

      This is not physician-assisted; all the doctors do under this law is prescribe drugs.  Speaking of Huxley, we do already have “institutionalized, societal control of the end of life.” Access to drugs is possible only through various institutions with absolute control.  At present, in most states, you must endure suffering in death, because these institutions will not allow you access to certain helpful drugs.  I do not see how maintaining the prospect of a “bad death” is necessary to the moral functioning of society.

  • grmann

    If anyone has gone through end-of-life with a mother and father, you know the pain of watching them pump their hearts in pain and angst for days on end. It’s unfathomable that we pump our elders with drugs while they are alive — from statins, hypertension meds, diabetes drugs, anti-depressants — we fill them up each day. And then when they need help in passing through these painful last days, we refuse to give them help. It’s unconscionable!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/elly.loeser Elly Loeser

    This idea about letting “life take it’s natural course” doesn’t exist!  Think about what the natural course was 100 years ago versus the natural course today.   The natural course to our end of life is already determined by medical intervention.   Even the creation of life is determined for some parents by medical intervention.   I want the right to urn off the pain, turn off the intervention, and even turn off the light.

    Elly in West Roxbury

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Commentors here keep mentioning pets.

    1.  Do you see no difference between the life of a dog or a cat and a human being?

    2.  Pets don’t get a choice in the matter.  It must be solely the choice of the individual with the illness, not that of the family or doctors.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    I won’t tolerate some shrink getting to decide about my life.

  • mhanau

    This “good death,” which is ostensibly less painful for the patient, is potentially also less painful for the family, and for society.  It is a slippery slope from Physician Assisted Suicide to institutionalized, societal control of the end of life, as in Huxley’s Brave New World.

    • Gret88

      Do you really think you’re just one slip away from approving of mandatory death for people of a certain age, or whatever?  And that the only way to hold yourself back is to make sure certain drugs are withheld from the terminally ill?  Or is that slope only slippery for other people?  In any case, I don’t see the easy slide down that hill.  Those two positions are very far apart.

      • roseel

        You already had one post by a critical care nurse mentioning patients who are “old.”.And that it’s those pesky relatives who want to keep them alive. What’s that but a slippery slope to believing that if you’re old and sick you should die!

  • Scott B

    I watched an uncle suffer from bone cancer and the cancers that grew from it, and known others that have, and I would not wish that kind of suffering upon anyone.

    I had a college professor who’s wife’s 90+ year old aunt was dying of bone cancer, and it was a long slow haul.  Yet the doctors and clergy at the Catholic hospital she was at in France would not let her have the drugs (morphine, even heroin) that would have alleved some of the constant agony because they didn’t want her to become an addict, or overdose and die, even when she and the family begged for the medication.

    Arrogance and misplaced ideas about sin from antiquated dogma.

  • Penny Powell

    Maybe I have really missed something here, but I simply do not understand why any adult human being should not have the inherent right to die when he/she wants to.  Disease or no disease.  Of course, their family and friends would like them to do whatever they can to get the help that they need – medical, psychological, or whatever – but if an adult human wants to die, then they should absolutely have that right.  

    I sincerely hope that this controversial issue has nothing to do with faith, because I do not want any faith-based beliefs to have to do with the policies that affect my life.  

  • Scott B

    Did anyone not think that Clint Eastwood’s character did the right thing at the end of “Million Dollar Baby”?  If I was in that situation I’ve told friend and family that if it comes down to it, if I have no quality of life, to “accidentally” pull the cord out of the wall if they have to.


  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    If you have never experienced extreme chronic pain or the feeling of constantly drowning in air, you have no clue!!!

  • burroak

    Morning, Death with Dignity, I believe, should be an option; and, in the end, it is an individual’s choice.  

  • jhskibum

    As a new critical care nurse, I fully support this law to give terminally ill people the option to pass comfortably at home. Watching and caring for critically ill patients whose families choose to prolong death in the ICU is truly uncomfortable and just awful to be a part of. Hope this law makes its way to Vermont.

  • Thinkin5

    hu·maneness n.
    Synonyms: humane, compassionate, humanitarian, merciful These adjectives mean marked or motivated by concern with the alleviation of suffering: a
    humane physician; compassionate toward impoverished people; released
    the prisoner for humanitarian reasons; is merciful to the repentant.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Grodin, do you have a cure for diseases like ALS?  Many would see that as a terrible way to go and would prefer to leave before the total loss of control.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

    Look, 100 years ago mothers & infants died at a high rate simply due to the lack of decent hygeine. We can do so much better, now, for ALL patients, with antibiotics, surgeries, chemo & radiation treatments, etc. Why can we not bring these high standards into end of life care? Really, why?

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyle.rose Kyle Rose

    The straw man this idiot Michael put up actually makes the other guest’s point: the bill is specifically about allowing *terminally ill* patients access to life-ending medication, not patients who are mentally ill or suicidal. He should be happy about the restrictions in this bill!

  • Yar

    Isn’t this straining at the Gnat? When we have a elderly population with food and housing insecurity, where they have to choose between food or medicine.  This is an option for those with resources, those of us without, have life and death decisions made by others.

    • Sandstone3

      But we also don’t want government/hospitals/other entities kicking us off before we are ready/it is time for the sake of saving money/easing THAT type of pain.  There have to be other solutions for these types of social issues.

      • Yar

        Maybe they already kick us out to save money.
        I would like to see a statistical analysis of nursing homes and hospitals where payment for services are divided by three groups. Likely to receive full payment, likely to receive partial payment and unlikely to receive any payment for service, compared with morbidity in the three months of admission.  My guess is: when you run out of money, you die.

        • Sandstone3

          Unrelated to termnally ill patients, hospitals absolutley kick you out to save money.  One recent change that has been put in place (perhaps with Obamacare?) is the requirement for hospitals to report on patients re-admittance rates within 30 days of discharge.  It’s hopefully made them a bit more cautious.  Nursing homes – my aunt with dementia was private pay.  A study like you mention would indeed be interesting.

          • Yar

            “Unrelated to terminally ill patients,”
            Maybe, maybe not.
            The study I proposed may show that terminally ill patients tend to die quicker in the hospital where funding is scarce. Where full payment is involved they may take longer to die. I have seen doctors keep people alive when there is no chance of recovery and no quality of life. It takes an assertive family to let a person die in a hospital while the bills are still being paid.

          • Sandstone3

            Most patients in nursing homes are NOT private pay.  My aunt was a rarity.  I guess I wrote ‘unrelated to terminally ill patients’ because I believe they kick ALL of us out as early as humanly possible to save money.  It’s universal.

          • Yar

            The business model is to keep beds full. If a new client is waiting for a bed and a client is on the way out, is it possible that it has an effect on care. Think about where the nursing home is owned by a members of the clinical care staff . Not that they would do anything unethical
            but situational ethics may apply. Few deaths in nursing homes are investigated. In the trade it is called “snowing the patient.”

          • Sandstone3

            Considering a DIFFERENT nursing home environment (one where my mom was this year doing rehab after breaking 4 pelvic bones) – one that is more akin to what you reference above.  The story I relate is hearsay but I tend to believe it.  Floor one = permanent NH residents.  Floor 2 = rehab.  Floor 3 = alzheimer’s.  Floor 3 has the fewest numer of nurses/patient because alzheimer’s patients don’t need much.  One woman’s husband had taken a turn for the worse – was less interactive/responsive.  Wife raised the issue.  There was a back & forth for a couple of days.  On day 3, wife opens husband’s mouth to find it was so stock full of food there was room for nothing else.  She was horrified.  He died shortly thereafter.  This is a fairly reputable outfit one would think but it calls things into perspective. 

            That said, in my mom’s case, they gave her a few days extra (once you are no longer making forward progress and are not expected to return to making forward progress – one can get ill or break a bone while in rehab – your case gets closed) to feel more comfortable about going home.  (granted, medicare was paying with secondary as backup).  That’s not to say my mom didn’t want to stay yet longer.  Only that they couldn’t justify keeping the case open due the ‘forward progress’ issue. We did get to negotiate a bit though. 

  • catilinas

    My grandfather, who married me to my husband two years ago, died this last year. It was his choice. He started having heart issues, and they could have done surgery, put in a pacemaker, given him drugs, and kept him alive, but he said no. He chose to suffer less, and follow through on what felt like was his time. It was really tough, particularly for my mom, but I truly believe it was less tough than watching him suffer slowly for several years, kept alive only by drugs and operations, all the while deteriorating and causing so much more pain for his wife and children as they watched somebody they loved and respected become so much less than what he once was.

  • alisonsegar

    Please read this story. It was printed in the Brattleboro reformer in 2008.  This is my dad.  It was terribly hard for me to support his wishes to die.  On reflection now… it was so important that he got to do what he felt best.  I miss him so much… but I am left with only good memories, and I thank him for that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/diane.collier1 Diane Collier

    we are NOT talking about teen depression or suicide here.

    this is for terminally ill people.
    I am for it.

    My uncle was diagnosed with brain cancer - 
    he went home from the doc and hung himself while my aunt went to the drugstore.
    this is SO SAD.
    he was so afraid of what would become of him – and figured he’d better get out while he could do it on his own..
    and not become bed-ridden, blind and hooked up to machines.

    now what if he KNEW he had a choice.. when things got bad – he could take a pill .. and NOT SUFFER !
    he may have had another good six months to accept to his diagnosis and enjoy his family.. knowing when he got bad he HAD A CHOICE !!!

    this is all about choice!

    • brettearle

      Good points.

      But to enforce that, the patient would need at least second and third opinions.

      If physicians tell you that patients will never recover from terminal diagnoses; or they would suffer sooner than they actually might; or that they will die sooner than they actually do……then these physicians WOULD SOMETIMES BE WRONG.

      Although I support assisted suicide, it seems to me that you would have to take all these variables into account–for someone to receive a legal pill.
      And the fact is,

      • Sandstone3

        In Oregon, you do need multiple opinions.  Along with span of time between the opinions.  In the Mass bill you have to have witnesses that basically have no vested interest in your assets and have to wait 15 days between GETTING the prescription and FILLING it. 

        • brettearle

          Thank you.

          But did you hear the call, about the father who claimed that the hospital refused to continue treating his son?

          I commented about it, above–about twenty minutes ago.

          Something does NOT add up, about that phone call.

          Anything you could add–and I would be grateful. 

          • Sandstone3

            Yes, it was an odd situation though believable.  Having both parents with  significant chronic conditions (Mom has breast cancer & had a stroke but is funtioning amazingly well for what she has!) I have realized how MUCH of an advocate you, as a patient, need to have.  Patient advocacy is so critical to healthcare.  If a patient is in the hospital, you pretty much have to be there in the morning to catch the docs on their ’rounds’.  It’s almost like you have to camp out 16 hrs out of 24 (leaving at night) to make sure you are there when any medical input/tests/decisions might occur.  I encourage, along with health care proxies, the ‘extended measures’ (feeding tube, intubation, continuation of prescribed meds) and the DNR/no DNR to be recorded properly in writing and for those wishes to be known by folks who might need to know these things.  We also have a blank form we have mom mom sign each time she is in a hospital.  It lists all her kids & phone #s and addresses the HIPPAA concerns about release of info.  Patient advocy is so huge it cannot be understated.

          • brettearle


            I been though much of what you are describing, myself.

            With all due respects [I appreciate your comments]…..

            …..but THAT IS NOT MY POINT.






            I don’t think so.


            Abortion is the law.  It is NOT murder.




          • Sandstone3

            I’d need to know more of the specifics about the case to answer your specific question.  As a general rule, yes, I do not believe hospitals have the right to supercede a family’s wishes.  Which is why I stress having HCP, extended measures in writing and known by those of interes.  I also stress patient advocacy and camping out at the hospitals.  In my verbiage, it’s not because I fear someone coming in and saying a loved one couldn’t stay any longer but because they have thoughts or need input (which reminds me, too, people caring for others need to know THAT person’s medical history to ASSIST the doctors in the treatment of the patient) or other things.  These may be inputs that are needed urgently or (as you are suggesting) may go against the family’s wishes (but, in my case, was not life/death but was more med reaction/interaction & expectation setting).   I hope this helps.

          • brettearle

            Thanks much.

            I wish we could talk on another online venue, or offline.

            I have much that I could talk to you about.

            We have some experiences in common–based on what you have written, here…..

    • Sandstone3

      The opponents/Catholics want to chalk it up to depression & teenagers.  It can only be accessed by ADULTS so teenagers are not a defensible argument.  Depression is also not always the root cause either, as evidenced by some of the postings here.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Grodin goes on and on about pain relief.  There are other matters.  The ability to control one’s own life, for example.  Many illnesses mean a loss of control.

  • tired_of_hate

    As a long time ICU nurse, I have assisted many people to the other side.  We give people close to death morphine and other calming drugs all the time.  The first time I saw this was as a student back in the late 70′s.  Yes patients do not as to be helped at this point, though they may have living wills,  but this is the hypocrisy of the medical profession in refusing people to end their own life.

    • brettearle

      Explain, then, please, how the actions of nurses and doctors comport with the Law?

      I support assisted suicide–but when do the families or hospitals KNOW they are complying with the Law?

      If you cannot answer that, then I am quite uncomfortable with your comment, above.

      • tired_of_hate

        The fact that nurses provide the comfort of a less painful death is done under the orders of the physician and is done to comfort not only the patient, but the family as they are saved from watching a gasping death.  This is a hard truth and it is done within the law.  But how many people realize this goes on every day? I would never give medication without the physician’s orders.  I also gave my own father morphine during his last days.  I put it under his tongue, knowing full well that eventually he would stop breathing.  Death and dying are never easy topics, but we need to have the dialogue and bring things out of the closet.  In this polarized political environment, this is going to be about as popular as discussing abortion realistically. i recently had to put down my old kitty and it is hard to make the decision for an old animal friend, I can not imagine making it for myself, but I do know I would like to be able to have the choice.

        • brettearle

          I’m still unclear about your explanation of the policy (even though I support a Right-to-Die law):

          Are you saying that the MD is allowed, by Law, to administer a narcotic dosage that COULD possibly render a death, but might not result in an ACTUAL death?

          I find it very hard to believe that the Law sanctions such an egregious gamble. 

          The Law certainly wouldn’t sanction a dosage that would be definitive.  But why would the Law also sanction a dosage that may not be definitive–but, nevertheless could be?

          However, since anything seems to be possible in Life, I also assume that it’s vaguely possible that the Law covers this kind of medical decision that has such critical uncertainty to it.

    • newsongs

      thank you tired_of_hate for sharing the reality. Brettearle, I’m not sure it’s easy to explain, until you’re in the position, and it’s not going to be the same for anyone: but in our case, my father was asleep for 2 days; the hospice nurses’ primary role is to ensure their patients are not in excrutiating pain as they approach death. They followed the law in provided him enough morphine to keep him asleep. He was never going to wake again without excrutiating pain. There is no real way of knowing if the morphine is what stopped his breathing or if it was the effect of cancer (he was in hospice, not monitored by machines, or tested by doctors), so I don’t know how this, or others who experience similar cancer deaths could be legally argued either way. We were just there with him, while he slept, and continued to give him regular doses of morphine until he stopped breathing. 

      • Sandstone3

        Hospice is also there for the family.  Hospice offers a wide array for the family. I agree that the primary role is for the patient but the family is not extremely far behind.

  • inquirer12

    I heard one person from Arizona mention that there are already “options” available for the terminally ill that allow death to come more swiftly and without pain but are not “official.” I would be interested to hear from more people with experience with this. I worry very much more in this culture of profit over people, that this bill could open the door to legalized abuse, especially as baby boomers age and insurance companies’ costs increase.

    • brettearle

      “Options” available that are not “official” would technically be illegal, would they not?

      Do you expect us to believe that states–especially ones like Arizona–would look the other way and not prosecute?

      I have a hard time believing that–even though I support assisted suicide.

    • newsongs

      I believe you are responding to my call (not from Arizona, but that’s where my father died of cancer). He was in hospice care at home and the nurses gave us morphine and directions on how to administer it.  I asked them plainly: “So, are we basically administering a lethal dose of morphine, essentially overdosing him?”  They said they were providing us enough morphine to help him die with less pain, and it was our choice how much to administer; they softened it by saying “based on how much pain you think he’s in.” He was not able to speak to us to tell us how much pain he was in.  We were provided the option to help him die, more quickly, and with less pain. I don’t know if the amount we administered is what killed him, but I do think if we didn’t do this, he would’ve moaned in agony for many more hours, if we allowed him to die “naturally” from cancer.

      Our oncologist shared that this is a very common practice with cancer patients but it’s obviously a taboo topic. 

      • Gret88

        aka palliative sedation

  • jhskibum

    As a new nurse in critical care, I completely support this law. Watching critically and terminally ill patients prolong their death in the hospital is truly an uncomfortable act to be a part of despite all of our palliative care measures. It seems that we continue care on older and more critically ill patients because of families and the medical teams choices to encourage continuous treatment when the quality of life within the ICU is far from ‘quality’. I support this law to give terminally ill patients the option to pass in the setting of their choice.

    • brettearle

      I support assisted suicde–strongly I might add–but what about the call, that I refer to, above?

      Can you elucidate on that matter at all?

      It seemed bizarre–if not fully unbelievable–that the hospital could, or would, do what the father said they did do.

  • msrichards

    HA – I can imagine my late sister, wracked with the pain her cancer specialist said she would not experience, unable to summon the strength to sit, bustling off to an appointment with a psychiatrist!..That is, when she could get the appointment.
    “Depression” is not applicable to someone in the agony of late stage cancer.
    I had to turn off the show because some of the opinions of those who want to ban “death with dignity” made me feel rage.

  • http://www.facebook.com/angie.s.bolin Angie Stewart Bolin

    My husband was on Hospice for 2.5 years with end-stage emphysema.  He had absolutely no quality of life, and prayed to die.  He had lost everything he could ever control and had lost all dignity.  Every type of antidepressant and antianxiety drug was tried to no avail.  He begged Hospice to help him die, but they said that was unethical.  It broke my heart to see him so disabled and depressed.  I think when people get to that point, they should be allowed to decide for themselves when they want to die.  Angie Bolin

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/TSXD5CCYE5GHCCON5VQHY7EFG4 amy

    My mother died in hospice. I was struck at the time that hospice was the most humane part of her illness and death, so much better than the hospitals. I don’t know what she would have done if assisted suicide had been available to her, but I bet she would have liked to have the option. All end of life options should be available to terminally ill patients. 

  • mikepiehl

    How much does religious belief play in this and how is it related to the anti-abortionists. I feel every situation is different and who are you to tell anyone how to live? (I’m an atheist, stay at home dad with 2 kids, btw.)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QLNJB2C4E2JSI6J7X2DLPC2354 Joanna Blaidd

    I’m very worried about the “slippery slope” because I have seen from personal experience that caregivers are subjected to a lot of pressure from the medical establishment, from social workers and even from family members with their own agendas. Taking care of my father as he was dying from cancer was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. One of the last things my father said was that it had been worth it to him to go through everything “because I got to know my daughter.” But during the process, I had to contend with pressure from health care providers who thought that I was inappropriately extending his life; they told me point-blank to “stop being selfish and let him go” (when, after much soul-searching about what he would want, I had chosen antibiotics to treat an infection — he later regained consciousness and affirmed that I had made the right call). I had pressure from family members and social workers to “Stop acting like an idiot — put him in a nursing home!” when I was carrying out my promise to let him die at home. The idea of “giving patients a choice” sounds good, but I’m very concerned that we’ll be creating a culture in which patients are encouraged not to “burden the family” by going through the entire process of natural death. 

    • Scott B

       Good for you and your father. That was an agreement between BOTH of you. Neither of you was doing anything the other didn’t want.  The same should be granted for those that wish to go.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/QLNJB2C4E2JSI6J7X2DLPC2354 Joanna Blaidd

        You’re sidestepping the point. My point was about creating a cultural climate in which screaming at people “Put him in a nursing home — why is he burdening you like this?!” devolves into screaming at people “Why doesn’t he just take the pills — why is he burdening everyone ilke this?!” I don’t know whether this is what will happen but I’m worried about the possibility. 

  • Medfordgirl

    The journey of life starts with birth and ends with death. Why have we only limited the function of our health care system to assist with life? Why do we argue this case as if we might not be on the receiving end of this? I am a young breast cancer survivor and if my cancer was to come back and was staged as terminal, I would like just as many options to assist my death in dignity as their was options for treatment for me to live a longer life when my cancer was caught at an early stage. This is a very personal decision, no one else can make this decision for anyone else. We are only discussing the possibility to help give options for people who are faced with terminal illness to how they would like to die.

    • Jasoturner

      Why?  Because many people are terrified of death.  And they’re willing to prolong the suffering of the terminally ill to try to convince themselves that death is not inevitable.  Rather selfish, really.  I don’t think there’s a lot of intellectual honesty in some of the anti-dignified-death crowd.

  • Wayne Bowyer

    One of your guest speakers (not sure if it was Mr Grodin or Mr Lowenstein) compared wanting to die with the deaths of those who chose leaping from the Twin Towers on 9-11. That is a completely ludicrous statement!!!! Those who jumped were not wanting to die in any way. Those people were in complete terror and acted out of instinct. For your guest to suggest they were making a calm and informed decision shows he is sitting on his brain.

    • Scott B

       I couldn’t disagree more. They CHOSE their manner of death.  I’ve known burn victims and people that have been involved in fires and that pain, even from the heat of flames that hadn’t reached them, is indescribable.  It wasn’t that long ago that people used to save a bullet for themselves in war, or a pill was stashed away to that the pain and suffering from a rescue that was never going to come could be avoided. 

      Better to face your maker (if you believe in one) on your own terms than to stand idly by.

      • brettearle

        Scott B–

        Instant decisions about death can often have little to do with forthright judgement.

        Wayne is correct.

        No man faces his Maker, competently, if he is under enormous duress.

        To claim otherwise is to `Cry Foul’.

        The same Rules do not apply to everybody, under different conditions.

  • Scott B

    While I feel for the last collar (Allan?), people can’t pin their hopes on “what if?”  The cure for anything could happen tomorrow, but what we have is the facts of today.
    I’ve told all my family and friends, and  in no vague manner, that I don’t want to be on life support if all signs show there’s no hope.  The issue of “what if…?” came up and I made it very clear to them not to feel any guilt as they had no way to know when, or even if, whatever was wrong with me could be resolved. 

  • Ellen Dibble

    I would get my doctor to declare me “terminally ill” if I needed the help to die.  I’m thinking that it would be better to have the $300 for the Seconal be part of a life insurance policy, not part of health insurance, since that can run into the issues of cost.  One could maintain someone as a vegetable for 50 years until science comes up with a cure, but the money of doing so, for 50 years, might meanwhile have created a far, far better wellness for far far more people, and the individual in question might know that.  The caller who spoke of the aunt who suffered for a decade — I’m thinking she might have been fairly young.  Not eating or drinking I think can be swiftly effective for those with degraded bodies, immunities on the wane, all that.  But cancer might affect someone with a robust constitution, and perversely, the body might hang on with truly depressing persistence.

    • Gret88

      This happened to my strong and vigorous uncle who died of lung cancer at 44.  His body persisted and persisted; the hospice nurse explained that his overall strength was keeping him alive despite his dwindling to 90 pounds and looking like a skeleton with skin, unable to walk, struggling for breath, doped perpetually on morphine and atavan, and all we could do was sit by his bed praying for it to end.  

  • disability_is_not_death

    As usual, I am saddened that we didn’t get to hear from people whose lives might actually be curtailed by this legislation, were it to pass. Thanks to Michael Grodin for mentioning the tendency to offer the cheaper option of assisted death to people who are not seen as having value in society: folks on welfare, folks receiving MassHealth, the drug addicted, the homeless. Until we revolutionize our healthcare system in this country, the dollar signs will blind insurance providers and cheaper will always trump better care. In spite of Ashbrook’s frequently-voiced doubt, this DOES happen already, and will certainly only be facilitated should such a bill become law. Isn’t it interesting that every time this proposal was brought before the MA legislature, it was voted down? Now as a ballot referendum it looks like it will pass… oh, America, who will save us from ourselves?

    • brettearle

      Are you suggesting that Attorneys General turn the other way and let hospitals and/or families violate the Law–and that it is done SELECTIVELY, even as we speak?

      I don’t think so.

      If this were true, there’d be front page reports everywhere, about something that would clearly be scandalous.

      But make no mistake….I support assisted suicide.

  • brettearle

    Towards the end of the program, a grieving father called to say that a major hospital in Boston would no longer care for their son; that he was consuming too many resources and that, by implication, his life was irretrievable (he would remain, perhaps a suffering vegetable).

    He also said that the hospital claimed rights to the decision to stop treatment; that the son was their patient and that, by implication, the hospital had greater rights than the family.

    The father did not talk of a “Living Will” or End-of-Life document.


    I am not an expert on medical law–especially its relationship to criminal behavior–but if the father was accurate….



    Does anyone out there no the TRUE answer to this quandary?


    I feel badly for the family….

    • Scott B

      I think what actually happened, and what the father thinks happened, are two vastly different things. 

      • brettearle

        I HOPE that you are right.

        But why didn’t Tom, or anyone else on the show, question the comment?

        It could NOT simply be because they were sparing the feelings of a grieving father?

        Maybe that WAS the reason….  

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QLNJB2C4E2JSI6J7X2DLPC2354 Joanna Blaidd

    When my father was doing home hospice, we had enough morphine in the house that he could’ve killed himself by taking it all at once. He and I discussed it, because at one point he did wish to “speed up the process,” but the way he did it was simply not eating or drinking; he said he would never ask me to give him a lethal overdose, but the means was there if he had wanted it. I don’t know whether there would’ve been legal repercussions for me if I had given him an overdose. 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/QLNJB2C4E2JSI6J7X2DLPC2354 Joanna Blaidd

      Oops. This was supposed to be a reply to the question about “other options that are already available” that someone had posted. Sorry it didn’t show up that way. 

      • Gret88

        When my uncle was doing home hospice, we had morphine at home but never enough to kill him.  They came by every day and restocked us, so we would always have enough to be palliative but not lethal. This was in California in 1999, and yes there would have been repercussions at least for the hospice if they had left a lethal dose in the home. 

    • Joseph_Wisconsin

       The way current law stands, except as noted for physician assisted suicide in Oregon and and Washington, you would be possibly be convicted of murder if you actually gave him an overdose or even assisted him in it.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/QLNJB2C4E2JSI6J7X2DLPC2354 Joanna Blaidd

        I don’t know whether it’s actually enforced in California, though. 

  • Chesire11

    I listened to most of the show on my way to work this morning, and I have to say that though I was never a huge fan of Tom Ashbrook as a journalist, but wow, on today’s show, he really outed himself as a shameless hack.
    The show was essentially a commercial for Question 2 masquerading as a discussion. The first 15 minutes of the show were dedicated to laying out the facts of the Oregon assisted suicide experience, a task handled by one of the prime advocates of the law. This was followed by three listener calls in favor of physician assisted suicide, after which one of the 14 original signatories of the petition to have Question 2 added to November’s ballot spoke at length. Not a single voice opposed to Question 2 was heard until 30 minutes into the program and five voices 9two guests and three callers) allowed to speak uninterrupted in favor.
    When we finally heard from the Question 2 opponent, over the course of the next five minutes (which were shared between him, Q2 proponent and the caller whose mother suffered from MS) Tom interrupted him six times, two of which interruptions were argumentative in nature.
    This isn’t to say that objections to the law were not discussed, they were, however, they were generally raised by Tom to present the Q2 advocates an opportunity to refute them without challenge, before any critical voice was allowed on air.
    Question, Tom…if physician assisted suicide is such a good idea, if Q2 makes such sound public health policy, then why the need to manipulate your listeners with such naked propaganda?

    • http://www.facebook.com/dan.cipar.7 Dan Cipar

      A shameless hack? Tom is one of the best journalists on the radio and On Point never fails to impress listeners.  True – today seemed a little one sided at the start, but it was necessary to to lay a background for the topic, a background which comes from a state that allows right to die. And well, quite frankly, unless you’re blinded by religion there is only one side to this issue.

      One suggestion buddy – 96.9FM tomorrow morning…your type of radio.  Calling Ashbrook a hack? You sound like Michael Graham.

      • brettearle

        Well said.  They don’t make`em much better than Ashbrook.

        • Chesire11

          Obviously, we are in disagreement. While I agree that he is a nice enough fellow, his likeability does not equal competence. 

          • Scott B

             You remind me of a curmudgeon I know of that used to listen to radio just so he could complain about it. He actually had tapes of it labeled “Songs I hate”.  Turn the #$%^’s station if you don’t like it.

          • Chesire11

            So I’m only supposed to listen to the station if I agree with everything on it? I’m only allowed to comment if it’s to praise Tom Ashbrook/ I’m supposed to have two settings, uncritical adulation, or total self-censorship?

            No thanks, I prefer to listen to a range of viewpoints, including ones with which I disagree. My complaint about this particular episode of “On Point” is that it was grossly skewed and did NOT present both sides of the debate in anything like an even-handed manner. If that becomes the rule, rather tahn the exception, then yes, you can rest assured, I will be listening to another station.

          • brettearle

            We won’t be happy until you destroy all the radios that you own.

            That’s how suppressive we really and truly are.

            Besides it is very likely that you are already fairly hard of hearing.

            So all of this is likely a moot point.

            There are some good Otologists around, by the way.

          • Chesire11

            I’m always somewhat bemused by the prospect of a person so convinced of the unimpeachable quality of someting they like that they think it can’t bear dissent. I don’t share in the somewhat creepy adulation of some for a pretty mediocre radio personality, big deal (shrug)

          • brettearle

            It’s shows true courage  to be in the clueless minority….

          • brettearle

             “The Man who is tired of Ashbrook is tired of Life”

            You remind me of the guy who turns down Raquel Welch’s advances because he didn’t like the lipstick she was wearing.

          • Chesire11

            You’re only saying that so I change my mind on Question 2.

            Besides, Raquel Wech is a little old for me.

          • brettearle

            Of course, sir.  Of course.

            That’s why when we talk of Brigitte Bardot or Lauren Bacall we really only talk about  women who might be incontinent or who wear dentures.

            I mean, none of us wish to say that the elderly are unattractive–now do they?

            Of COURSE that’s the reason why I used voluptuous Raquel as an example:

            I mean it certainly wasn’t to give you the license to be ignorantly petty or picayune.

            Oh, wait a second….how silly of me….of course that was the reason:

            For my instincts are always to be accommodating  to those who are remarkably perceptive.

          • Chesire11

            (I was being facetious)

          • brettearle

            (Of course you were)

            Which is WHY I was being SARCASTIC….

          • Chesire11

            Which is why I was being ironic. ;)

      • Chesire11

        I what sense is Tom Ashbrook a good journalist? His interviews never break new ground, they merely rehash age honored talking points. He interrupts his guests to “summarize” their points, oftentimes making precisely the opposite point from that which they were arguing (mostly because he’s not really listening to them very well). Whenever a guest seems on the verge of making an intersting or original point, rather than going off script to exlplore the issue, he ignores it and moves along to the next question on his list.

        He’s affable enough, but he’s really not very good.

        BTW, if you seriously are trying to argue that there is only one side to the issue (a point which I would never dream of suggesting however much I disagree with Q2), then you’re just not being a very intellectually serious person.

        Finally, thank you for essentially conceding my point. Allowing the show to be “a little one sided” during the time that the groundwork is being laid ensures bias throughout the entire show. That is not the work of a responsible journalist, it is the work of a hack.

  • geraldfnord

    My late father had seen a friend die a very painful death, which friend in his last hours demanded to know why our pets merited the favour of a clean, painless, death and he didn’t.  I believe the gun my father subsequently bought was of great comfort to him in this wise in his own last years; a law similar to this one would have served as well and would have been less likely to kill a third party by accident or in anger.

    I’d feel less in favour of this if it weren’t for doctors’ fearing for their practices and freedom if they adequately medicate pain.

  • Human898

    This is an interesting conversation.  My Father called up all my siblings and me and told us he was ready for his longest journey.  By that he meant the treatment that was keeping him alive he saw as a having no purpose as far as an improving quality of life, but rather a slow and prolonged artifically supported diminishing returns life and a postponed death for no purpose in his mind.  He wanted off the medications and drugs that were keeping him alive, but were working less and less.  I admire him for that and to me, what appeared to be a humble act, rather than one of vanity.   He didn’t want to be kept alive, simply to be alive, but without ability to live.  

    Based in the conversation and the Hypocratic oath, I wonder if keeping people alive against their will and what nature’s course would otherwise cause, could not also be considered “doing harm”?   The other component is money and how that plays into the “do no harm” portion of the oath.   Who are the medical community to assume control of what someone wants for themselves whether it is to live beyond what would be a natural course or letting nature take its course?  Can someone really suggest that “life” is prolonging death, at a monetary expense?   I see both sides, one of those encouraging no extra treatment to save what might cut into their profits, but I also see those who profit from extending life.  What if the profit motive on all sides were taken out of the equation and wouldn’t that be a good starting point?  How to do that exactly, I am not sure without more thought, but it would seem to me to be somewhat arrogant to assume someone who believes they want nature to take its course does not really want that and that they should be kept alive, regardless of the state they are in and prolong dying, not because the person dying wants to, but because someone else wants them to and possibly because there is money attached to it, if not just someone else’s morality.  That to me is doing harm, no less than doing harm by shutting off an opportunity for prolonged life also based on cost.  What we have been looking at, aside from a struggle of moral values and who owns one’s life, is money and the money factors from both sides of the issue.   It seems unfortunate that was not really brought up in the discussion.   There seems this assumption that “life” must be preserved no matter what, even to the extent of taking control of someone else’s life and prolonging their life against their wishes.  The very last thing my father wanted was to be lying in a bed an unliving body that was “alive”, because someone else wanted it and for the idea that his life would no longer be his or in his hands, but in the hands of those presuming to decide for him.

    I believe that unfortunately the connundrum or dilemma is that there are numerous conflicts of interest involved in nearly every position. There are those who could profit from prolonging life, postponing death and those who could profit from shortening life. There are those who want to assert their moral values upon someone else. It may come down to the question of whose life (and death) is it?

  • Scott B

    Sarah Palin and her mythological “death panels” set this country back.  In my family we grew up knowing what our parents wanted, and why.  Our parents also told their doctors. Yes, some of it was about costs. They didn’t see the point of spending anyone’s money to keep them from the inevitable should their quality of life become nonexistent.  But they equally didn’t want to suffer, nor have their family and loved one feeling any anguish about their condition before they died, nor guilt in deciding to let them pass on.  They both had DNR’s (Do Not Resuscitate order) and mom even thought about having it tattooed on her.

    How many people have actually had this conversation with their family and doctors?  Far too few.  Yet Palin said that paying a doctor to sit down with someone about their own wishes about end of life care, something that most everyone will have to do, was a “death panel” out to kill Grandma.  Will it save money? Yes. That’s an unintended bonus. But it’s not the hospital and insurance companies bean-counters that are making the decisions. They’re not in the room, and should never be.

    • Gregg Smith

      Did it require a government program for you and your parents to have that conversation? Would you have welcomed a third p[arty into the conversation who worked for the government that was paying for treatment?

    • brettearle

      The father who called up, about his son who wanted to live, suggests that death panels are in place.

      He claimed that the hospital would NO LONGER treat his son–EVEN THOUGH the son wanted to live.

      I question the accuracy of the call.

      I feel for the father strongly and I also support assisted suicide.

      But I do not believe that Death Panels are in place, legally.

      And if they are in place, illegally, then how can hospitals GET AWAY WITH IT?

      • Scott B

         I very much doubt that’s what the people that approached him said. What someone says  and what a person under great distress, especially emotional distress, hears are two different things.
         I don’t doubt that suggested something, and I don’t doubt that some people in the medical profession have a decided lack of tact, but no one is pulling plugs just to save money and without regard for the family’s wishes.

        I also wonder how he knew his son wanted to live?  Did his son mean let to let him live if he was just in a coma and didn’t need constant life-sustaining tech and treatment? Or did he mean don’t let him die at any cost?  Did they ever have the conversation.

        Also keep in mind that these are medical professionals that know when a patient is too far gone to help.  We all would like to think “what if..? for our loved ones. What if they wake up? What if they discover a cure tomorrow? What if…? 

        And at some point when does it become too much for the patient or the system to bear?  Doctors have to take that into consideration. I watched a PBS news show where a 90-some year old woman was in ICU, with absolutely no hope of recovery, being kept “alive” at hundreds of thousands of dollars per day.  That bed, that tech, that personnel, that money, could be devoted to people that would be better served.  They had to call a neighbor to make the call because the woman had no relatives for the hospital to call upon; and the neighbor said she believed that the woman wouldn’t want to “live” like that, nor have all those resources being wasted on her.

        • brettearle



          OF COURSE, THEY CAN’T.


          It’s NOT my own hair-brained (no pun intended) idea.

    • Sandstone3

      Completely agree with you. Palliative care planning is critically important.  We need to know what our loved ones desire as days are waning.  It is not a death panel.  I will again recomment ‘Hospice homes’.  Look them up.  They apparently are in use in Europe and slowly coming here.  We went to one in Needham called ‘Tippett House’.  There is one being built in Norwell (I think or a town nearby).  There are a few. They are GREAT.  One downside – it’s all private pay.

  • Adrian_from_RI

    Should there be laws one way or the other on assisted suicide? I think the answer is obvious if you answer the question: “Who owns your life.” Is your life the property of the state, of society, of your neighbors as the socialists claim? Is your life a gift from God and you are his property as the religionists claim? Or do you agree with John Locke (1632-1704) who claimed that your life is your property as expressed in America’s Declaration of Independence.
    I consider euthanasia or assisted suicide a fundamental human right. A peaceful death is everybody’s right. Remember, euthanasia is a Greek word meaning “good death,” but you should also keep in mind that “euthanasia” is a term that is very dubious, since it does not specify whether the death is consensual or forced.
    You can find an editorial that further analyzes the “The Right to Assisted Suicide” at:


  • NatHanMat

    I think what has not come up and what is at the heart of this discussion is the issue of suffering in and of itself.  Through our humanity, we don’t like or want to suffer.  I don’t like it and try to escape it a myriad of ways, as do many of us.  However, many or most of us can recall moments in our lives or in the lives of loved ones that a certain amount of suffering brought good results in someone’s life to the degree that you hear people say – “If I had not gone through that ordeal, then I would not be the (thriving) person I am today.”, etc.  Suffering has the great possibility of transforming people’s lives in ways that nothing else could.  Furthermore, I know as a parent that I need to learn how to allow my children to suffer the consequences of their own actions in hopes that they learn the lessons they need to in order to thrive in their own lives, rather than rescuing them from the consequences.  I know that I don’t like to see my children suffer and desperately want to rescue them and they often want to be rescued, BUT I am learning that I need to back off so that they can learn something better and I need to get control of my own emotional reactions and responses so that there is room for them to figure stuff out and 
    in the interim I need to long-suffer this.  I need to suffer with them rather than take control of it, because in the long run it will not be in there best interests.  

    I know that this is a feeble comparison when we are talking about a loved one enduring long and painful suffering 
    that will result in their inevitable death, but I think the principle is no different.  I think we need to protect the sanctity of life.
    We need to be hands off in this area of life.  Our society is a proud one and with all that we have at our disposal we are furthering the cause that suffering is a total loss and should not be tolerated.  This goes along with abortion.  People are AFRAID to keep their child (in many cases) b/c of the suffering that will come.  It’s inconvenient to care for the child so get rid of it. 

    Until we face the truth that the role of suffering in our lives is a mystery and that we are not – should not – be taking authority
    over life itself – then the arguments will continue, but I think that it is harder to argue against this bill than to support it.  
    I think that more people think it is the merciful way to go, but I think it is another way we as humans live our lives as if we are in control and grossly lack the humility that is needed to face the uncertain with a certainty that it is God that is in control of these matters not matter what it looks like.  Jesus willingly suffering the worst death possible b/c He knew that it would be the greatest gift to humanity.  Furthermore, He admonishes that we should do the same, “take up your cross” – the cross of
    suffering – it is the way to eternal life.

    • brettearle

      Your comments are very well put–but I strongly disagree.

      Jesus does not speak for everyone.

      If that were true, there would never be billions of people, around the world, who are born, who suffer, and who never read the Bible; never know about Jesus; and ALSO read, perhaps, their own sacred scriptures; and believe in a non-Christian God.

      Who are you to say that a 29 year old man in Indonesia or Nepal shouldn’t end his life–or ask for his life to be ended–if he is suffering after being mortally injured by an earthquake or Tsunami?

      He likely never studied Jesus–nor should we expect him to.

      While I agree that suffering can actually strengthen one’s life, I believe that your beliefs about suffering ARE GOING TOO FAR.

      NO ONE should have to suffer endless pain, at the end of life, if there is LITERALLY no hope–simply because Jesus suggests otherwise.

      I believe in God–but my God is an equal opportunity God, who knows NO denomination.

      And he is a God who has greater compassion and understanding for the relief of individual pain–ESPECIALLY for a patient who is, quite possibly, very close to joining him in Heaven.

      If less people felt your way, then we could ease suffering–at the end of Life–much more compassionately….if there is only pain left, in Life, without any hope of recovery.

      I respect your cogent points–BUT I STRONGLY DISAGREE  WITH THEM.

      • NatHanMat

        I appreciate your comments and responses. I hear your compassion and wish for mercy upon individuals we are talking about. 

        I am just very concerned about this being brought into law.  I am concerned of the potential for abuse, but also I just do not believe suicide is a
        right that we have.

        Regarding Jesus words – I may have used them out of context.  My intent was to bring attention to the issue of suffering and our responses to it.

        I also believe that God is compassionate as well, but still also believe that we are in His territory when we allow suicide as an option.   

        • brettearle

          We are only in God’s territory–IF WE SPEAK IN TERMS OF A CHRISTIAN GOD.

          God is NOT a Christian God.  He is a God for all of Humanity.

          And for you to believe otherwise is to impose your beliefs on people’s suffering.

          That is utterly unfair and it is almost unconscionable.

          You and I cannot prove–nor can we have absolute complete faith about it–as to what happens to us, after we die.

          To put the cart before the horse and to impose a moral value over the way someone can die, should die, or ought to die, is morally abject.

          Nevertheless, I appreciate the way that you present your comments.

          But I truly deplore them.

          • NatHanMat

            As we discuss this matter…the reality of its power and magnitude swells in my heart.  I am thankful for your passion, honesty and the ability to vocalize them in a way that keeps the conversation in a productive place.  

            I realize how arrogant and exclusive my convictions sound.  I do believe that the Christian God is for everyone.  Jesus died for everyone. He did not ask our permission.  He did it so that we MAY have eternal life.  I also keep in mind that God is just and reveals himself to humanity in ways that He chooses.  I am open to that mystery; however, Jesus’ still gave his life so that we may have it.  I we do not believe that – it does not make it ‘not true’.  

            Furthermore, I think the question here may be…Can God be known?….If so, who is He?  Is He who we want or imagine to be or does he actually have and identity apart from that?  

            If it is the former – then He is not much more than a projection of what/who I think He is RATHER than a being with a separate identity from any created image of my own.  And if this is so – how do we get to know Him?  

            It is possible to know the true and living God.  

            He is Jesus.  Who is alive.  And desires us to follow Him home to heaven.  

            What to do you think?   

          • brettearle

            Our conversation has already ended.

            To have a discussion with a devout Christian is as about as possible as having a discussion with a devout Atheist or a devout Islamist or an Hassidic Jew.


            You would not know the concept of Flexibility, if it were in love with you or if it were threatening you.

            Best of luck with your disdainful Extremism. 

            God exists and requires no Word, through anyone else, or anything else, other than a man’s own quest and other than a man’s own soul.

            What’s more, God is not even a New Age God.

            Is that Flexible `nuff for you?

            But NOOOOOO…..you’ll want to have the Last Word, won’t you?….even though our conversation has officially ended….as far as I am concerned.

            Devout Christians ALWAYS seem to need to have the Last Word.

            They can’t handle not   maintaining their Preaching edge.

            Watch ladies and gentleman….watch…he’ll have something more to say…..I guarantee you.

            Either that, or he’ll pleasantly surprise me….

            Imposing one’s moral values on suffering–especially end-of-life suffering–


          • notafeminista

            Regardless of the philosophy this is all God’s territory whether it is the Christian God, Allah, Buddha etc.  None of this is Man’s realm. 

        • Gret88

          Your intent appears to have been to scold us for wanting to relieve suffering and to remind us that Jesus/God wants us to suffer.  Allrighty then.

      • notafeminista

        Well put.  I would add only, that believing in God as we do, it must be recognized that Man is not to know the mind of God under any circumstances.  God takes when He is ready and not a minute sooner or later.  It is not up to us to decide when He is ready.

    • Sandstone3

      ARE YOU KIDDING ME??????  Do you know ANYONE who has lived/lives with chronic illness/pain?  ANYONE?  Go look at earlier posts by me about my dad.  Even though he lived FOR YEARS in pain (YEARS upon YEARS) he was infinitely ready for death long before his actual physical death.   I live with someone who HAS chronic pain.  There is no drug/procedure/alternative therapy that has worked.  The only things that SOMEWHAT ALLEVIATE the pain are stretching & chiropractic adjustments.  This has been for nearly 2 decades. 

      That said, I do ‘get’ your point about ‘if I hadn’t been through X, Y would never have happened’.  I GET that.  But if and until you have either walked in or been greatly exposed to someone with chronic illness/pain, please don’t begin to suggest that suffering is a cross to bear as the way to eternal life. 

  • 65noname

    There are many things wrong with your guest’s attempts to whitewash capitalism itself as not being responsible for the demise of working people and the middleclass.  One of the many incorrect facts is attempts to claim that a “new” plutocrat such as Rommney is actually selfmade.  He started
    out with millions of inherited dollars.  Most people who start out with millions can figure out how to leverage that money into millions more.  How about those who start out not even being able to afford college or health care?

    These guys didn’t earn anything.  They stole from the working people actually create the wealth.

  • ttajtt

    i remember older moves where mom screamed “safe the child, i lived my life”.  was that pro-life, or assisted suicide.  i have not seen any thing like that today or lately.

  • ttajtt

    People, i am going on a 30 year TBI/NDE service connected injury.   every time i wake I ask what can i do? DIE, DIE, kill your brain thats it.  But what else is their to do? that I WANT.   no wife, kids, friend, or siblings talk to me, and that it. its the what I can do now, the (self talk) in what i want done, before i do before that happens?  number or no number calling.  i have seen, thought, more excuse and ways then the rich have dollar bills.  I’ ve never tried it, but dreams the ideas…no tv here.  its now just there, its still making me what i am.   so your/i’m not alone, it has a history living on . excuse me now i must finish my book. good day.  Off the evil wireless sprite.  

  • Robert Berube

    Death should be a natural process, not assisted or imposed from the outside. This is shameful to the conscious. People who advocate this must be dealing with some sadistic tendencies.   

    • ihamburg

      It is your attitude that is shameful.  I have terminal cancer and want to be able to end my life if other means fail to provide me with a dignified end.

      • roseel

        A  dignified end? What’s that? You’re talking about pride or what? And if you want to kill yourself why do you want to drag others into it? People commit suicide all the time-without dragging others into their scheme. That to me sounds like malice on your part;if i’m dying others have to be dragged into an ethically compromising situation and go against the life instinct Like your way of getting   back at the world before you die! 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1550427523 Akilez Stamatelaky

      You cannot dictate someone’s life because you want them live just to suffer more.

    • JoJoJas

      Are you sure you’re not projecting a little sadism of your own?  What do you call an attitude that says to a terminal patient in severe pain — sorry, you’ll just have to go on suffering for as long as we can keep you alive. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jacqueline-Rose/100000994969258 Jacqueline Rose

      Excuse me? Where is the dignity in fighting with insurance companies at the age of 37 like my sister did. Where’s the dignity in going into crippling debt, killing any chance that those left behind will be able to dig out of that hole? How selfish can you be to insist that someone is shameful for ending their own suffering (and that of their family) when the insurance companies are turning a profit for telling you that you can’t do something that might save your life? How cold of a human being (and I use that term loosely because no other human would advocate suffering) can you be? Amazing. Dirtbags like actors and musicians can get transplants and excellent medical care because they have bucks, but the life of a mother of two who served her country is worth less, according to the insurance companies?  

      • Robert Berube

        Why not hold insurance companies accountable then?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1550427523 Akilez Stamatelaky

    If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1550427523 Akilez Stamatelaky

    Once you are married, there is nothing left for you, not even suicide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1550427523 Akilez Stamatelaky

    If the person who is very ill and don’t want to suffer anymore for years. As the right to end his life with his own consent.

  • acs54

    I’ve read a lot of the comments and it seems there is a major part of this discussion missing.  Everything has been approaching from the side of the patient and patient choice.  My brother is a physician and after speaking with him, he made two really important points from the medical side:  

    First, the law in Massachusetts requires a psychological evaluation to determine the person is of sound mind (i.e. depression is not the driving force in their desire to die) before prescribing the medication.  But these people are terminally ill and have been told their lives are about to end.  Isn’t the loss of the will to live and it’s replacement by the desire to die, an indication of an unsound mind?  If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, would you consider it a sane, rational thought?  Being told that you have a disease ravaging your body does unknowable damage to the human psyche which ebbs and flows over time.  What if one day the patient feels like they want to die and the next they want to live, fight, be with their family, etc?  What if we had better palliative care and could ensure that person was comfortable no matter what and they would die without pain? Would they still want to commit suicide? It’s a REALLY important question because if we aren’t sure, how can be absolve ourselves of the guilt, knowing we may have allowed someone to kill themselves when it wasn’t something they would have chosen given better alternatives.

    Second, and this is something I wholeheartedly agree with.  The hippocratic oath says “Do No Harm”.  Doctors are taught to preserve life at all costs, even in the worst of circumstances.  That thought process is ingrained into their belief system and is what makes them so good at what they do.  Do we really want to ask the people whose job it is to protect life to start being the arbiters of death? Is that a responsibility we want to bestow or burden them with?  There are a lot of ways to kill yourself if you really want to die.  Why is a physician or any other human being responsible for offering it to you?  I think it’s important to keep the sanctity of the profession free from this.  Do people die in hospitals? Yes.  Are people made comfortable as they die? Yes.  Often times do the drugs that make people comfortable lead to their death? Yes.  But there is a distinct line between palliative or hospice care and putting the gun in someone’s hand and saying pull the trigger when you’re ready.  Maybe it’s a thin line but if it keeps medical professionals feeling like they are always trying to preserve and enhance life, I’m all for it. It’s NOT a doctor’s job to help me die but to help me LIVE.

    • JoJoJas

      You make some good points, but you ask “isn’t the loss of will to live….an indication of an unsound mind”?  I’d say, not necessarily. If the person is in bad pain and his/her condition is terminal, one could argue it’s a perfectly rational attitude.      

    • http://twitter.com/PoppaCarbs Jim Carberry

      How do the doctors who oversee the administration of drugs for someone who has been sentenced to death deal with the obvious conflict with the Hippocratic Oath? It’s only ok to help kill someone who was bad, but someone who no longer wishes to suffer has to stay alive?

      • acs54

        Not a good argument. You’re assuming I believe in the death penalty and the idea of a doctor being the executioner. I don’t. But in that case like I’ve said above, I don’t really understand why doctors should be presented with the obligation at all. Have an executioner do it. In the old days when they had firing lines to execute people, they would put a blank in one of the guns so that you’d never know if you fired the fatal shot. But we want to ask a doctor to willingly prescribe something that will kill someone. Seems contrary to everything we ask from medicine. I’m not saying there aren’t reasons for suicide in extreme cases. But nobody has been able to answer this question: when did doctors earn the position or the responsibility to provide death?
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        Regional Sales Manager
        Vinifera Imports (Eno Mass)

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/W7GMQUHUSMJSPQMIKSQSVCIH2U access maven

      Dear acs54, the proposed MA Question 2 (not a law) would NOT require a psychological evaluation.  The “competency” requirement is not about mental health, it’s about comprehension.  In the context of physician-assisted suicide, “competency” is deemed merely on the basis that the physician believes that this is a patient who adequately comprehends the consequences of swallowing a lethal dose- that such an action will probably cause death.

      IMHO, your points are excellent.

    • acc123

      I wholeheartedly agree.   I think another piece of the issue not discussed is that the data shows most of the people who actually use this medication in Oregon, do not do so because of uncontrolled pain or physical suffering, which is what most people romantically envision as they support this bill. We are all afraid of “dying in pain” and many support this bill out of this concern. No, the actual use tends to be in situations of immense psycho/social/spiritual distress over the loss of control at the end of life. As a physician who cares for these patients, I’ve seen first-hand this immense distress. It is awful. HOWEVER, I do not think it should be the role of medicine in society to help someone end their life under these circumstances. While an individual might want their doctor to carry this burden for them in the moment, I don’t believe we as a society really want our doctors to have the power to prescribe life-ending medications with the SOLE purpose of killing our patients. That would violate the social contract between doctors and society, at a time when trust in medicine is already waning. It is the role of legislation to protect the greater population as a whole. I work everyday tending to the often immeasurable distress of the few who are dying with distress over fear and loss of control at the end of their lives, yet still I fear for the future of our medical system and society if this bill is passed. We need better ways to help society deal with expectations and fears over loss of control (perhaps starting by working on seeing death and grief over the loss of our life expectations as a very sad but natural part of life), rather than asking our physicians to help end those lives when we are afraid.

  • MarcusXH

     I realize my comment is way late, but I was listening to this discussion on my way in to work this morning and felt compelled to give my 2 cents.

    I strongly believe that if someone has a terminal illness or injury, resulting in terrible quality of life, they should be allowed to have the peace of mind to end it.

    After having seen my grandfather die slowly of esophageal cancer, my uncle die of a brain aneurysm and a Marine in Afghanistan suddenly become a triple amputee where he lost both legs and an arm as well as his genitals begging thru the morphine to “just let me die” I think that if modern medicine can keep you technically alive, but you aren’t able to enjoy that life in any substantial way, it should be your choice to end it in a safe, legal manner.

  • JoJoJas

    I’m not sure what the answer is here, but I can tell you this — I had clinical depression for years and wanted to end my life, and you’d be surprised how difficult it is to come up with a way that is painless, and sure to work without the possibility of leaving you worse off than you already are.  Obtaining a handgun was not an option because of my history of previous suicide attempts. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/bo.bentele Bo Bentele

    What discussion and effects have the Oregon Death with Dignity regulations had in regards to terminal individuals’ life insurance policies?

  • http://www.facebook.com/lisa.cadkin Lisa Dabrowski Cadkin

    A week from tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of my husband’s death. He was 37 years old and had terminal cancer. Toward the end of his life, his disease metastasized to his bones and he was in more pain than you can possibly imagine. He was in the hospital and he begged me to kill him. Assisted suicide is not legal in the state of Wisconsin, and having to tell him no was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. He died four days later. Was it really necessary to let him die naturally and in excruciating pain? It angers me to this day that he could not die as he chose when he knew he was going to die anyway. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000004601568 Lynn Marquardt

    yes pain drugs…. then the nightmares and other upsetting consequences…. not for me…. after what I have witnessed, I hope to have a way out before I get to that final awfulness

  • Dana85

    “Michael Alan Grodin, M.D., the descendant of four generations of Rabbis Professor Grodin teaches “Jewish Bioethics” at Boston University and has
    served as a consultant for Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist
    and Reform rabbis as well as Christian theologians in the areas of
    medicine and Jewish law.”

    In case anyone was wondering about his irrational self-righteous hyperventilation on the topic. Behold it’s faith i.e. myth based origins.

  • peaceiseverystep

    A few years ago I read a book called Loving and Leaving the Good Life by Helen Nearing which, among other things, describes her long-time partner’s death by self-starvation at ago 100. At a certain point, Scott decided he was through and simply stopped eating, and then drinking. This story made quite an impression on me and I have a feeling it’s the path I would take if I wanted to end my own life, near death. It seems that this is an end-of-life option that does not involve barbiturates, and is also in a sense the path followed in hospice where (in my experience) they don’t use feeding tubes, so that not eating is part of the passage out of life.

    • 1Brett1

      Of the people I’ve seen who’ve chosen the no-feeding-tube method, it was a painful process. It’s often the dehydration part that finally does the doing in. It  sometimes can take a week, or longer, and can be filled with sheer agony…I don’t consider this humane. In certain circumstances it would be good to have other options available.

      • peaceiseverystep

        Thanks, 1Brett1, appreciate your comment. In the Nearing book, it was described as a very peaceful process. Then again, I read Ina May Gaskin’s “Spiritual Midwifery” book and (wrongly) expected the same of childbirth :-). Thanks again.

  • peaceiseverystep

    A few years ago I read a book called Loving and Leaving the Good Life by Helen Nearing which, among other things, describes her long-time partner’s death by self-starvation at ago 100. At a certain point, Scott decided he was through and simply stopped eating, and then drinking. This story made quite an impression on me and I have a feeling it’s the path I would take if I wanted to end my own life, near death. It seems that this is an end-of-life option that does not involve barbiturates, and is also in a sense the path followed in hospice where (in my experience) they don’t use feeding tubes, so that not eating is part of the passage out of life. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.towers Leonard Towers

    My father in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in April.  He was in excruciating pain because the cancer spread to his liver, gall bladder, lungs, spine, and everywhere else.
    Many cancers do not have effective treatments.  All the patients can do is wait for the eventual death; and it will be a slow… painful… death at that.
    Had my state allowed physician assisted suicide, he would not have to barricade himself in a room and commit suicide by shooting himself in the head because he could no longer bear the pain.  Physician assisted suicide would have allowed him to die with dignity, surrounded by loved ones.
    To the people that oppose physician assisted suicide, until you have experienced this kind of pain yourself, you have no right to impose your beliefs on others.  The bill will not change how you spend the remainder of your life.  It would have allowed me to say good bye to my father in-law, and how much I appreciated him…

  • prostak

    My father has advanced pancreatic cancer.  We know he doesn’t have much time left, and THE important thing for us now is that he can pass the remaining time and depart exactly in the way he needs to.  He seems happy now and I need him to be happy until the very end.
    Unfortunately, I also understand the complication and horror of suicide in a family, as we have been through that recently as well.  The thing is, my cousin was healthy and unhappy at the time he decided to take his life.  Nobody could stop that from happening.
    Now, how is it that, in trying to avoid a drawn-out, miserably painful goodbye, our hands could be tied by the law because of some principle that healthy people could take advantage of it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001537375667 Monica Starr MacGeen

    I don’t even know why this has to be debated. When it involves pets it is considered the ‘humane’ thing to do. Why not the same for humans? I would want the option if I were seriously ill. Why prolong the inevitable if the quality of the time remaining is very poor.

  • CRosow

    I greatly enjoyed the interchange on Death with Dignity today, and I believe that many of the most important points were raised by your 3 guests.  There was an important omission, however.  I know that Dr. Grodin is an orthodox Jew, and I was very surprised that this wasn’t mentioned when he was introduced.  He presented himself only as a psychiatrist and an expert on end-of-life care, so he created the impression that his views were shaped solely by his clinical experiences with “over a thousand patients.”  Maybe that is so … but maybe not.  It would have been more intellectually honest to let your listeners interpret his statements in light of the well-known position that orthodox Judaism takes on these matters. 
    Carl Rosow, M.D., Ph.D.
    Massachusetts General Hospital  

  • roseel

    it makes me afraid of getting old and getting sick;the thought that whenIi enter a hospital people will want to kill me- for “my own good”,of course.Tthis is not what health care should ever be about.Those pushing death with dignity-are assuming that if your  quality of life is not what it once was-you have no dignity and should want to die. The whole attitude is skewed to pressure people to want to die. it’s truely an inversion of where an enlightened civilization should be headed. 

    • http://twitter.com/PoppaCarbs Jim Carberry

      There would be no more pressure under this law than there currently is. The patient has to request the medication on multiple occasions. The safeguards that are built in are sufficient that they’ve worked for over 10 years in Oregon.

    • ladlyseakayaker

      You weren’t listening clearly at all.  I suggest you go on line and relisten to the program. It is all about YOU laying in a hospital, in pain, terminally ill, with zero quality of life.  YOU make the choice, YOU ask for it.  It is for no one else other than YOU.  And BTW, it is not correct that all pain can be controlled.  Not all pain can.  The alternative is to medicate you so heavily you are near comatose 24/7.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jacqueline-Rose/100000994969258 Jacqueline Rose

    Please explain to me how we can grind up an unborn child in our wombs, but we can’t take our own lives? It’s absolutely absurd to let someone suffer. If it cheapens life, then why aren’t we more concerned about the most innocent victims of all (the unborn)?

    • Davesix6

      Good question, good point Jacqueline.

    • NatHanMat

      Thank you for pointing this out.

  • Davesix6

    Thank you Tom for airing this issue.

    I believe we all have the God given right to decide for ourselves how we will deal with the end of our life.

    As well as the responsibility to guard the lives of the innocent.

  • Pingback: CAAR E-Clippings No. 3186–October 19, 2012 « CAAR E-Clippings

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