This Op-Ed appears in Florida Today newspaper today.

Florence was an 81-year-old Oregon resident, diagnosed with painful pancreatic cancer. The doctor gave her less than six weeks to live. After a second opinion by another doctor, she elected to die with dignity.

On a Saturday afternoon, she invited her two adult kids and their kids, to her apartment. She hugged them all, shared loving words, sat on a sofa and lifted a glass of water. She swallowed 10 Seconal sleeping pills. Within 30 minutes, she was consumed in eternal sleep.

Some folks may find this gruesome, but it’s worthwhile talking about.

Free-thinking people with debilitating and incurable illnesses should have the right to choose when and how to end their lives (with restrictions and caveats). Once people arrive at advanced ages and then suffer with horrible diseases and/or pain from which there is little relief, they should be afforded opportunities to make a clear and thoughtful choice. The technology is at our disposal, so why not?

We have deep compassion for terminal animals in horrible pain, so we do the humane thing. The difference is that human beings who are suffering can make the choice themselves. It’s called doctor-assisted suicide.

The states of Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Montana and Vermont have enacted laws that allow people with verifiable fatal diseases to obtain relief from physicians who can write prescriptions for medicine that achieves a peaceful, self-induced death. Since 1997, Oregon reports that 1,327 patients have been given such prescriptions, while only 859 have actually carried out suicide. Currently, another 17 states have introduced aid-in-dying bills.

Two objections generally surface against such laws. One is religious based, which reverts to faith. If the process violates the tenets of one’s religion, they certainly should not be forced or coerced into such a situation. But if the patient pleads for relief and death is imminent, he/she should be afforded the same compassion we show cocker spaniels.

Another concern is the risk of abuse. People fear such legislation may provide an avenue for selfish and unfeeling people to get rid of granny. Would family members be able to manipulate elderly relatives into an early grave against their will? Most of these laws include built-in protections within the language of the statute. A patient must be of sound mind, must knowingly request the relief, reside at least six months in the state and be within six months of certain death.

When considering the tortuous pain terminal patients suffer while fighting diseases like lung or liver cancer with drugs as the only relief, it is nothing less than a humane act to provide an option to end suffering. Such laws not only aid victims, they end ongoing anguish for parents, siblings, spouses and offspring who must continually watch and weep for stricken loved ones. It also puts a screeching halt to the ballooning health care cost machine where expenditures can rack up by mega-thousands of dollars.

Those who are lucky will arrive at old age and eventually pass away peacefully. Some of us are not so lucky. Some are doomed to months or years of fruitless struggle, which can be alleviated.

The nation is growing older, which means the country will be growing sicker. According to recent studies, America’s 65-plus population increased from 35 million in 2000 to 44.7 million in 2013. Of all states, Florida should be enacting such a law. According to the Census Bureau, the Sunshine State ranks No. 1 in per capita old-age population, with 18.7 percent of Florida’s 20 million people older than 65. As the population ages further, the problems of terminal disease will continue to rise as will the burdens of health care costs.

Tallahassee should be considering such a law for Florida. If not here, then where?



  1. Niki Hollenbeck August 13, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

    I read your article if I would of not known better I would of thought I wrote it. Surely I want to meet u Please my mother completed suicide in o7 she shot herself. Brain tumor. Now July 18 2015 my father with the same gun in a vacant lot down the street. He knew it was his time I truly UNDER STAND AND AT PEACE WITH IT. AND BELIEVE FLORIDA SHOULD BE A RIGHT TO DIE STATE. I WANT THE LAW CHANGED AND WOULD LOVE TO SPEAK ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE AS WELL MAYBE AT ONe of your seminars. I feel that is why I amon this earth to speak out. Please contact me. I work at Publix on Malabar Rd as a cashier. 258 Aves Rd n.e. is my addrest Palm Bay FL 32907. I want to write a book. I know I purchased many in 07. Thank u for the article. Thank u soooooo much!!!! NIKI

  2. David Lee Valdina August 13, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    Yup, I agree 100%.

  3. Marlene Franklin August 13, 2015 at 2:42 pm #


    I have always felt as you do. My mother suffered a debilitating stroke. The doctor was so proud of himself that he got her through the night. She lived for a year after that with no quality of life.

    However, what we are seeing today in this country appears to be that the government is stepping too far into our health care choices, i.e. in many cases denying the elderly treatment on the premise that they are “too old”. This could (heaven forbid) lead to government “induced” self destruction.

  4. Howard Bernbaum PE August 13, 2015 at 3:04 pm #

    Perhaps you should ssuggest the government put a tax on assisted death. I’m reasonably sure end of life self determination would be legal in 50 states within a year.

  5. toodles August 13, 2015 at 4:15 pm #

    Bravo Marshall,Another out of the park home run.After watching and listening to my husband saying he wished he would die for a year prior to his death in February I fully agree. He was here 94 years, was in poor health, had no quality of life and although not stricken with a terminal illness, he was of sound mind and ready to go. There is no reason every state should not put its seal of approval on assisted death. We treat our pets humanely and our loved ones not so. Wrong in my book.

    Thanks for your insights Marshall, most always welcome here.

  6. Fran of 57 August 13, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

    Not sure I agree. My mom had Alzheimer’s. Everyone thought why? is she still alive?!

    Yet, when she was in the nursing home she thought she was at one big family reunion. And every morning she went to every room, of every patient and greeted them and told them how great they looked and how happy she was to see them.

    The staff told me that mom did more for the morale of the other patients than anything, and most cried when she passed away.

    So, I’m not sure we can decide, better than God, when others no longer seem to serve the purpose we think they should have on this earth.

  7. Harold Swift August 13, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

    If your situation is terminal that means there is no other way out besides death. It would be comforting for me to know I had access to that way out when pain, anguish and all quality of life is over and done with. When you become a complete and total burden on everybody you love you should have the legal option to turn it off.

  8. Ray Renfro August 13, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

    I agree. Speaking for just myself, I do not want to live out the last few months of my life in agony. It is also not fair to my family to put them through the anguish of watching me fade away. Once the verdict is in and it is certain, I would at least like to have the option to choose when and how I go out of this world.

    This is a touchy subject for some to talk about so it’s good that you have brought it up so people can express their feeling about dying.

  9. Eileen August 13, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

    I agree 100%, Marshall. Thanks for openly supporting this very important issue.

  10. Snake Hunters August 13, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

    Thank You Marshall Frank – reb
    ___ ___

  11. Eric Viehman August 13, 2015 at 9:15 pm #

    I am in lock step again. I have not read the statutes in the states you mention but I understand the objection you raise in No.2 and I suspect there is or should be language, with no loopholes, that would prohibit getting rid of granny.


  12. Ron Fischer August 13, 2015 at 10:05 pm #

    I live in Oregon and I have experience with the “Death with Dignity” laws; my Uncle and my Aunt both elected that option and both were terminally ill with short futures.

    Closure came quickly for the entire family. Exercised properly it is a truly peaceful and dignified way to pass on.

  13. Frank Clifford August 14, 2015 at 7:17 am #

    I can’t disagree with you

    I’m Catholic, and we hold that one cannot take his own life. However, those of like belief can make their own choice. Ultimately, as a matter of morality, it’s a question of one’s conscience. At least the statutes allow those who want to end their life due to extreme pain and with a short-life prognosis should be free to make that choice without adverse legal ramifications.

    To extend the issue, I’d like to see life insurance companies pay proceeds to beneficiaries where insureds have chosen to end their lives under a statute. I’m sure that life companies would push back in a big way to that idea.

  14. ebb August 14, 2015 at 9:12 am #

    An excellent article!

  15. Bill Solen August 14, 2015 at 8:37 pm #

    My mother lives in an ALF and will turn 95 in January. My wife and I visit her most afternoons and then wheel her to the dining room before we return home. Ironically we sat and spoke about this very subject this afternoon. Her memory is fading and I handle most matters for her which ranges from finances to medication. She forgot her name for a while today but it later came to her and she became so frustrated that it had happened. When we spoke today I promised her that when she could no longer function and was confined to a bed with ALF staff changing her diapers and wiping the drool from her chin that I would see to it that she passed with some level of her dignity still intact. She thanked me and said she felt comfort knowing that she would not be tossed into an unknown arena of fear and prolonged illness. Yes Marshall I agree that we need change..

  16. freewoman August 14, 2015 at 11:12 pm #

    Could not agree with you more Marshall Frank.

    Thank you for this post.

    Have instituted a “Living Will” which only declares that no life sustaining procedures be used to prolonging my dying, if my condition is terminal, or if I am in a state of permanent unconciousness.

    But what should I not have reached that stage?

    Have, possibly like so many other readers out there, found myself in the position of electing to put my beloved pets down, since they were suffering from painful and terminal cancer.

    None of us knows what physical affliction will eventually take us out.

    However, most of us are totally aware of the fact that “the ballooning health care cost machine where expenditures can rack up by mega-thousands of dollars.”

    I do not want whatever assets I have accumulated to go toward any medical intervention whatsover claiming that they can cure me and increase my life experience.

    Whatever I have, whatever I have accumulated, I wish to see forwarded on to my children.

    Having full well discussed this with my children, they understand where I am coming from, and know that even if the state or the federal government sees otherwise, I, as a gardener know full well how to take myself out.

  17. Edward A. Hensley August 16, 2015 at 6:59 pm #

    Marshall, – You make a long powerful argument for “Doctor Assisted Suicide.”
    Do me the honor of listening to a palliative care doctor for 85 seconds. Then
    you might better consider my NO to Dr. Assisted Suicide. NOW, if you want
    to talk about voluntary suicide being decriminalized, we are on. But, keep the
    Doctors out of the Killing Business, as pleaded by Dr. Ira Byock, here……

    ASSISTED SUICIDE IS UNWISE – Dr. Ira Byock – Institute For Human Caring,AAAAmZUYrnk~,XRdElBHcAr3oI_8866th8BW7o0-YsMMz&bctid=4242814647001

  18. freewoman August 17, 2015 at 9:10 pm #

    Thank you Edward Hensley for your well intentioned post and your referral to the video featuring Dr. Ira Bylock.

    Was hardly a couple of minutes into it when Bylock declared “We don’t allow bankers to steal from their depositors”.


  19. Denis August 17, 2015 at 9:20 pm #

    The creation of life is not normally a decision based in logic or economics. Death should not be either. Its odd how two people can look at the same activity and see two different things. I’m speaking of your analogy of putting animals down to end their suffering. I’ve always thought that the crazy expensive measures we continue to take to prolong life was a good thing and proof of our love for life and each other. Putting another human being down so that we do not have to watch something as uncomfortable as the end of life seems to be yet another way our society is devaluing life. I also don’t understand how you can reconcile your belief in euthanasia and your stance against capital punishment.
    There are two points of view in the comments section that I agree with. Assisted suicide should never be in a Doctors job description and the government should be kept out of the bed rooms as well as death beds.

  20. freewoman August 17, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

    Hello Dennis,

    It’s good to have another point of view.

    “I’m speaking of your analogy of putting animals down to end their suffering.”

    Possibly you have never had a “pet”, one of the animal kingdom created by God (and should you be an atheist or agnostic you are freely admitted to toss aside this concept)
    who becomes incredibly attached to a human, and that attachment is fully reciprocated.

    When it comes down the grief experienced in the loss of that relationship, along with the recognition that we voluntarily elected to relieve them from their suffering, is nevertheless extremely painfu.

    “I’ve always thought that the crazy expensive measures we continue to take to prolong life was a good thing and proof of our love for life and each other.”

    Not hardly so. Allowing those who we love to pass on without applying “crazy expensive measures” to keep them alive is actually a gift of love to them, recognizing that having to watch “something as uncomfortable as the end of life” is something that we have the compassion and the guts to deal with.