Death with Dignity or Assisted Suicide — even the terms hold story potential

Continuing my roundup of stories in the news with potential for subplots, backstory, characters, and more, I’m focusing this week on two recent stories about the right to die. Even the terms — right to die, death with dignity, assisted suicide — are freighted with tension, as we might expect from this most personal, and most difficult, subject.

In the early 1990s, I was a member of the King County (Seattle), Washington bar rules committee when Oregon voters were debating the Death with Dignity law, later passed in 1994, and listened to much debate on the subject. (Washington voters approved a similar law in  2008.) Here in Montana, our Supreme Court ruled in Baxter v. Montana (2009) that a physician may not be convicted of a crime for assisting in a suicide if he or she proves it was done with the patient’s consent. NPR reports on the much-publicized case of Brittany Maynard, a young woman with terminal brain cancer who moved to Oregon to take advantage of its laws. The story potential is enormous. Tension, tension, tension. Take the POV of the patient, her husband, her father who disagrees with her mother, her doctor, her best friend, the nurse next door.

And while we’re on that subject, CBS’s 60 Minutes reported on the case of Barbara Mancini, prosecuted in Pennsylvania for assisting her terminally ill father in taking a deadly dose of morphine — a charge she denied.

5 thoughts on “Death with Dignity or Assisted Suicide — even the terms hold story potential

  1. Leslie, there is a wonderful fiction book on this topic that one of my book clubs read last month called “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes. Not a mystery, but I highly recommend it. It came out in 2012 and was on the New York Times bestseller list as well and had many good reviews. Oprah said it was “To be devoured like candy, between tears.” USA Today said it was “Funny and moving, but never predictable.”

  2. Ok, I am already thinking about this as the basis for a story. I have no idea how people felt about this in the 1870s, but I am sure people wanted to help their loved ones.

  3. We’ve seen how people can be pushed into suicide, or tricked into it (if you want to murder someone, it doesn’t hurt to be a doctor). Now, if the doctor (what if the doctor is also an heir to the dead person?) can show that the person wanted to die, it’s all like, okay with the government? Oh, I definitely see the potential in this sweet bit of, um, legality.

    PS: Actually, an accountant could convince a person to whack himself. 🙂

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