The Debate Over End Of Life Decisions

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Recently Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer, made headlines across the country before choosing to end her life this month.

They belong to a club nobody wants to join; members of the cancer support group at Pierce Counseling in Kingston laugh, cry, and talk about the issues they are facing.

"We know that cancer is not necessarily a death sentence."

Recently the group has discussed end of life decisions, specifically physician-assisted suicide.

They invited Newswatch 16 to join the conversation.

"Raise your hand if you would like to see assisted suicide not be a crime in Pennsylvania."

"Absolutely."

They are not the only ones debating the topic. This year the "death with dignity movement" found a face perfect for the Facebook era.

Brittany Maynard showed the world her wedding photos, along with images of her brain, as she faced an aggressive tumor.

The 29 year old moved from her home in California to Oregon, a state which permits assisted suicide.

She ended her life November 1.

But not before imploring Americans to make her choice legal in more parts of the country.

"My goal, of course, is to influence this policy for positive change." Maynard said.

The organization Compassion and Choices presented Maynard's story on its website with the goal of getting the public to take action.

But this group in Luzerne County doubts Maynards's story changed many opinions in Pennsylvania.

"I would like to think that we don't let social networking and People magazine make those decisions for us. I don't know anybody that this would change. It just makes you talk about it more," said Lois Von Hoene of Wyoming.

Rose Manbachi has Stage 4 skin cancer. She says while she probably would not choose assisted suicide for herself. She would like to have the option.

"It is always nice to know that even if you wouldn't chose to have that option, that you would have a choice," Manbachi said.

Sally Alinikoff is one of two counselors leading the group. She says one of the hardest aspects of a terminal diagnosis can be the feeling of losing control over your own life.

"I would like to see it passed in the state, so that they have the choice. Choices mean control, whether it is cancer or any other illness, let's give that patients some control," said Alinikoff.

The only woman in this circle opposed to legalizing assisted suicide is Marie Gould, a devout Catholic.

"I think God gave us a life, and he is the one who should decide when to take it," Gould said.

She's not alone in her beliefs.

At St. Jude's Catholic Church in Mountain Top, the Rev. Joseph Evanko believes that while his religion opposes assisted suicide, debate over the issue is still healthy.

"To have a dialogue helps everyone get to a better place, the worst thing that can happen is when we stop talking and we just get entrenched in our positions" said Fr. Evanko.

Back at the support group in Kingston, about half the people there believe the law in Pennsylvania will change eventually.

"I think it will be within the next five to ten years, not in my lifetime, not in my life time, not mine, not mine either, I think it will be a slow process."

Pennsylvania Senator Daylin Leach hopes to speed up that process.

"Nobody wants to see their loved one in agony."

Every year since 2007, the Democrat from suburban Philadelphia has introduced a "death with dignity" bill in the state legislature. Every year it has stalled in committee.

"Most legislators are not looking for controversy, and they are not looking to get publicly out in front of a bill that is going to create controversy. It makes their life more difficult," said Sen. Leach.

Leach hopes the interest raised by Brittany Maynard's story will impact what happens in Harrisburg.

"She had to move to Oregon in order to have choices. The state where she lived didn't provide any choices. We are like that state, not like Oregon, we are trying to get there."

Sen. Leach says he plans to propose his death with dignity bill for an eighth time when state lawmakers come back in session next year.

Last week, the New Jersey state assembly voted in favor of legalizing physician-assisted suicide. Even if the measure passes the state senate, there's a chance Governor Christie could veto that bill.

A similar effort to change laws in here in Pennsylvania has stalled in Harrisburg seven years in a row.

20 comments

  • A Salerno

    7 years of being stalled is long enough! How many people have suffered an agonizing death in Pa Due to this? A choice such as this should be an individual personal choice and RIGHT to make whether or not he or she wants to ask their Doctor for this medication to end their terminally ill condition. No one has the right to interfere with such a delicate choice. We as citizens of Pa should have the right to choose. Even if medication is obtained and never used it should still be the choice of the terminally ill to make. Our Pa lawmakers need to get it together and pass this so people who have received a terminal diagnosis can make this choice before their disease impairs them from doing so. Also if someone we have put in office cannot separate their religious beliefs from laws that need to be passed for a person to choose a humane death then they need to NOT BE IN OFFICE IN THE FIRST PLACE ! Seven years is long enough.

  • Jason

    If you don’t believe in it don’t do it, it’s that simple, but you don’t get to make that decision for me. I never understood how it is considered “humane” to put the family pet down but we must lay in agony. If my doctor tells me I have a year to live you better believe I am going to enjoy every last good minute of it. When it gets to the point that I’m going to be bed bound and in pain, it will be adios amigos. I will not suffer, and I don’t need my government to tell me it’s legal.

  • Jody McAndrew

    I feel that if a person is terminally ill, drug co. and docs. should not be able to profit from their prolonged agony.. let them rest in peace.. and for those who believe, God does not turn any one away, our sins were all abolished when JJesus died for our sins. come on Folks wake up.. you are always saying there are no jobs no this no that.. too many on disability or medicaid or what ever is causing problems… honestly this will help our America… and I am not saying this to be disrespectful either..my heart aches for those and their family who are suffering…

  • tom

    Someone who is terminally ill should be able to end thier own life.Although pharmacutical cos. and the healthcare industry in general,profits immensely from illness.I watched someone suffer who asked for help to end it.

  • Robert

    Honestly, I cannot fathom where any of you get the idea you might determine for others whether suicide is permissible. Medical providers are not required to be complicit in this activity, but those who choose to assist others are exonerated by the law. These ‘Death Panels’ as you like to call them are merely a reflection of a person’s treatment desires where their end approaches. You have NO right to interfere. Get over yourselves!

  • God speed

    End Death with Dignity, to end a life in such a manor, terminal or not is not right, assisted sucide should be treated as assisted murder, the medical practice should not be involved in such a process. To make a decission over life or death is not ours to make. Remember Gods words shall not “kill”..

  • cassie

    Death with dignity <3 let's make a stand. Those who dont want it dont do it. But dont stop others freedom. If there was a god would he rather you suffer ? If he did thats a cruel man. God would want you happy.

  • Jeanine

    Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die,

    Psalm 100:3 It is He (the Lord) who has made us, we are His.

    Psalm 139:13-14 For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I’am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Isaiah 46:4 I am He, I’am He who will sustain you.

    It is not up to us.

  • Franko

    Here we go again, I am someone who was raised Roman Catholic, and I went to Catholic Grade School, High School, and College – but there is where things end at, as an American Catholic, I feel that we should not be forcing our beliefs upon others, We are not the only religion out there, and if any of the “righteous” Romans Catholics out there ever took theology classes they would understand. Yes we are a Christian founded society, but we forget that, the key word is Christian, not Roman Catholic. Our founders came here to escape religious persecution, and in modern times I feel that Roman Catholics try to persecute everyone who isn’t Roman Catholic by forcing the decisions in this country to be based upon what the Roman Catholic Church wants. Yes, as a RC you are taught that your life is God’s decision, but remember this, everyone has to live with their decisions. Why do we insist that Roman Catholics are the true right ones and that whatever a Methodist or Protestant or Lutheran, etc., person feels is their right decision is the wrong open — because the RC Church says it is so? That is so wrong. I want any of you out there that feels that those people are wrong and are going to burn in hell if people with terminal diseases are given the right to end life under their choice when they have a short time to live — switch places with them, would you be able to face the fact that you are going to die painfully, possibly not even realising that your family is with you during your last moments, forgetting who you are because of all the morphine they are giving you to make you comfortable while you lay there slowly slipping away from something horrible like what that woman had wrong with her. I don’t think so — I think any of you that feel that it’s all God’s choice would run off and pray, asking why do you have to die that way. We teach our kids that it’s not God’s intention to have you suffer, well then why can’t we give those with terminal diseases the choice to end life before the suffering begins ? I understand that the hospitals and doctors are against it because if you give someone the right to choose to take their life instead of facing weeks of suffering in Hospice, then the hospitals won’t be making the tons of money that they currently make off people dying. Think about it – all the families who wouldn’t have had to go through watching a parent or any other loved one go through suffering with their bodies trying to hang on for as long as they can, and then having to endure the piling up of expenses involved with the costly bills involved with trying to keep the person around as long as possible, even though there is absolutely no hopes of any recovery. Families whose memories of the person have to include the vision of what was left of that person at the end. Would you rather remember a loved one looking alive before they leave this earth or remember them with tubes and monitors and looking like death is hoovering over them ? We are humane to animals all over the world but yet when it comes to people, we refuse to be humane, and why, because the church tells you that it is wrong to end life so basically letting them suffer to the end must be the more humane alternative to giving the person a choice – how sick is that ?

    • Jeanine

      If you believe in God, and the Jesus in the Bible show the people where it says in the Bible it is ok for anyone to decided when to die? Jesus suffered and died on the cross for us. Isaiah 46:4b I am he, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

      Sounds like a promise, don’t you believe what He says?

  • Mikey

    It’s a person’s own choice. People should not have to suffer agonizing deaths because of other peoples’ personal beliefs.

  • Donna

    This is a very difficult topic, however, I would never want to make that kind of decision. I would want to put my life in God’s hands and let go. I’ve known a few people who have had terminal illness and miraculously turned around. I’ve read about miracles that have happened with others’ health also. I would want God to make my decision. I am only speaking for myself.

  • Julie

    I suffered for three years with one missed diagnosis after another. Finally a doctor found a tumor on my spine. During those three year I wanted to kill myself to end my suffering but my daughter was young. If I want to kill myself who can stop me?

  • amber

    Peole are so quick to put their beloved pets down when they’re sick or severely injured because they don’t want them suffer. Why should it be any different for the PEOPLE we love? I don’t want to watch my animals suffer a painful death, and I MOST CERTAINLY do not want to watch any PERSON I love go thru it either!

  • frank

    go kill yourself its not against mans law ….you dont need to have assistance from others….jump in front of a train,shoot yourself in the head with a gun, take a bottle of sleeping pills…stupid is as stupid does…but i say dont kill yourself ,its not Gods will ,..but satan wants you to .

    • God speed

      This is not just aTopic,about “sucide”, this is about letting medical practice assist in putting you down, really, we teach our children about the subject “suide” and that is wrong to think of it.

  • sandy

    I think it is a crime that families are nearly bankrupt caring for a terminally ill family member, I would want to end it myself.

  • Sharyn Bosio

    I think its should be the individuals choice. I was brought up Catholic ,I believe in God. I also believe each person should pray and find what is best for them. One of the many things I have learned is not to judge anyone, that is for God to do.

Comments are closed.