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.