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Choice in Dying in the News

Spring 2005


Connecticut Man Charged

A 74-year-old Connecticut man has been charged with assisting suicide. Huntington Williams provided a gun to a friend who was suffering from cancer, knowing that he meant to use it to end his life. The charge of second-degree manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, though a bill in the state legislature would make Mr. Williams eligible for accelerated rehabilitation. This well-publicized case has sparked interest in safe, legal aid in dying.


Evelyn Martens Acquitted

In November 2004, a Toronto jury acquitted Evelyn Martens of two counts each of assisting suicide and counseling suicide. The jury found that Ms. Martens, formerly of the Right to Die Society of Canada, acted out of compassion, and that there was no proof that she was anything more than a bystander during the deaths.

For details contact Friends of Evelyn Martens, 145 Macdonell Avenue, Toronto ON M6R 2A4, Canada or www.evelynmartens.ca.

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Health Care Decisions Week Takes Off

California and Georgia have passed resolutions designating the first week in November as Health Care Decisions Week, and Arizona is considering a similar resolution. This promotes the use of advance directives and encourages people to think and talk about their wishes for medical care. Contact us to find out about passing a resolution in your state!


Oregon Aid-In-Dying Law Reaches Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the Justice Department's case against Oregon's landmark aid-in-dying law. The Justice Department argues that the Oregon law violates the Controlled Substances Act, a claim already rejected by a U.S. District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The justices will hear arguments during the 2005-2006 term, which begins in October.


Terri Schiavo Tragedy Ends

Terri Schiavo passed away on March 31, 2005, in a hospice in Pinellas Park, Florida. She was 41 years old, and had existed in a persistent vegetative state since her heart stopped suddenly in 1990.

In a widely publicized case, Mrs. Schiavo's gastric feeding tube was disconnected at her husband's request on March 18. Last-minute efforts to prevent the tube's removal were rife in the Florida legislature and in Congress. When Florida's efforts failed, Congress first issued subpoenas, and then passed an emergency law send the case to federal courts.

A U.S. District Court and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals both upheld the state court and refused to order the reinsertion of the feeding tube. After a seven-year legal battle, Terri Schiavo was allowed to die.

The long and bitter dispute over her care is a graphic example of the need for advance directives. Barbara Coombs Lee offers sound advice. "In this political climate, everyone must take steps to protect themselves. The greatest fear of our constituents is that other people -- complete strangers -- will make end-of-life decisions for them."

We're here when you need us. Our advance directives services provide state-specific forms and individual counseling on how to complete and implement them. Members at the benefactor level and above can also obtain a free wallet-sized CD of their advance directives. If you aren't in one of these categories, please ask us about upgrading your membership.

Contact us at 800-247-7421 or clientsupport@compassionandchoices.org to find out how to protect yourself and your loved ones.




  
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This article was provided by Compassion & Choices. It is a part of the publication Compassion & Choices Magazine.
 

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