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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Dying with dignity proposed in PA

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Dec 12, 2014 11:40 AM

What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, December 15, 2014:

It may be one of the emotional issues of our time -- should terminally ill people legally be able to end their lives voluntarily with medication or with the assistance of a physician?

How supporters and opponents even refer to it the issue explains where they're coming from -- one side calls it death with dignity while the other describe it as assisted suicide.

The debate is not a new one but as often happens, high profile cases bring more attention.

The latest was Brittany Maynard who was terminally ill with brain cancer.  She moved to Oregon -- a state that allows people to die with the help of a physician.  She chose the date in which she would die and did so on November 1.

Before that here in Pennsylvania, Barbara Mancini was arrested after giving her terminally ill father a bottle of morphine when he asked. A judge dismissed the case.

The Death with Dignity Act, patterned after Oregon's law, has been proposed in Pennsylvania.

It is the subject of Monday's Smart Talk.


Pam Auer,Josey Byzek, Barbara Mancini, and Mitchell Sommers

Appearing on the program are Barbara Mancini, the woman who was accused of aiding her father's suicide, attorney Mitchell Sommers, and Josey Byzek and Pam Auer of the group Not Dead Yet.

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  • Rob Comment img 2014-12-14 22:16

    As the rich pro-suicide lobby goes from state to state pushing their cause, ask them one question: is there ever a requirement (not suggestion, but requirement) that the person asking for suicide is seen by a psychiatrist or psychologist. Every law or proposed law that I've seen does NOT have this requirement. Big loophole!

  • joylederman img 2014-12-15 09:26

    We are ALL going to die eventually. We are ALL terminally ill from the moment we are born. Why is it anyone else's business if we decide that it is time to end our suffering (whether physical or psychological)?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-12-15 09:50

    Thomas emailed:
    in my view any person who advocates this should take a long vacation to eastern europe to see the death camps of the nazi "new thinking".

    the nazi rulers didn't at first murder millions of jew and others, they started by exterminating the mentally ill the handicapped.....under the title "life unworthy of life" and convincing the public that they where helping these people by "putting them out of their misery"

    a slippery slide, man just never learns.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-12-15 09:52

    Ben emails:

    I am a healthy, very active, publicly involved, happy 63 year old. When I see my life as no longer worth living, hopefully many years from now, I want to be able to safely end my life. To the person against Death With Dignity legislation: Please do not presume to tell me how to think!

    • Rob Comment img 2014-12-15 17:34

      I'm happy that you are a healthy and very active 63-year-old. But don't change the law so that there is danger of elder abuse for 85-year-olds or so that people with treatable depression or people with disabilities can be coerced to take their own lives. There's a reason virtually every major disability rights group in the US opposes assisted suicide.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-12-15 09:58

    Todd emailed:

    Death, like birth, is not a disability. The tragedy is that we are even having this conversation, that a large group of us remains so immature that they do truly recognize the inevitability of decline and death.

  • Lisa img 2014-12-15 10:02

    I fully support death with dignity laws. Why is it that we consider it humane to euthanize our pets when they no longer have a good quality of life, but not our human loved ones? Suffering, whether it be physical pain or mental as with Alzheimer's, is not something we should force individuals to "work through". At some point it should be that individual's decision that enough is enough when there is no longer any chance of improvement. Current allowances of things such as not having a feeding tube are not humane -- it takes a long time to die of starvation. I would not do this to my dog, I shouldn't have to do this to my parents/spouse/child.

  • joe g. img 2014-12-15 10:15

    While I feel that suicide (regardless of the circumstances) is wrong, I also believe that an individual is sovereign in his or her body and is free to do what they choose. Whether choosing to end ones own life is right or wrong is a not the issue, in my opinion. We are all free to make choices in our lives and each choice has a repercussion, positive or negative. I believe the issue is whether or not the person assisting is culpable in a crime...and the scarier issue is who gets to be the arbiter of who can legally kill who.

  • Robert D Colgan img 2014-12-15 12:09

    Every veternarian knows that "putting an animal down" when death is inevitable and imminent and there is suffering . . .is merciful.

    We already have in place practices that fit the definition of "assisted death."

    Every nursing home in the USA uses some form of palliative care for relief of physical struggle, and pain, in the final time leading to passing-----and the morphine and opiates used are themselves a means of promoting/accelerating death by suppressing heart and lung functioning: in effect, drug-assisted homicide.

    Patients often will willingly forgo taking medications as they sense death approaching....sometimes the very meds that are maintaining survival by shoring up heart function: this could be construed as a chosen form of suicide.

    There are no black and white areas here at all...but it is in the gray that all argument seems to be taking place...because of current belief:
    the major part of the problem that I discern has to do with the paradigm currently holding sway in medical practice and public consciousness: "Life OR Death"

    but that paradigm isn't in synch with reality: "Life AND Death."
    . . .If we change the way we perceive death as enemy-----and begin to see it as merely part of the entirety of the life experience, (the journey), it loses its ferocity, and becomes what it is: the journey.

    Once the fear factor is removed, people can begin to make more reasoned and emotionally sane steps in dealing with dying, including giving each person the right to choose for themselves how they wish to deal with dying.

  • Scott LaMar img 2014-12-15 16:50

    Barbara Mancini posted after the program that the State of Oregon does provide detailed statistics on Dying With Dignity:

  • Scott LaMar img 2014-12-16 10:51

    Josie Byzek followed up...
    Forgive me, one more resource -- again, not directly about assisted suicide. I just want you to have a sense of our community so we can have a conversation about the issue that we're there to speak on. This is a Ted Talk by Stella Young, who used a power chair due to osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease). It's funny, it's fairly short, and it ought to bring you up to speed on how many people with disabilities see themselves and their bodies.

    On Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 1:39 PM, Josie Byzek wrote:
    Thank you. This is unrelated to assisted suicide, but is a typical type of blog entry that those of us with disabilities pass along to each other. It's about how hard it can be to get medical professionals to treat people with disabilities with the same respect and care as nondisabled people. This one is pretty mild, as these things go.

    One concern our community has is that people with disabilities, especially life-threatening disabilities, cannot uniformly receive quality health care. Therefore, how can these same health professionals, as a matter of policy, possibly make a judgment call about the person's quality of life?