Reality Check: Right to Die Laws: A Question of Semantics?

Published: Nov. 6, 2014 at 2:53 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 6, 2014 at 10:13 AM EST
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FOX19 - Brittany Maynard, who opted to take her own life this past weekend in Oregon, has become the face of the "Right to Die" movement in America.

Her emotionally compelling videos have seen more than 10 million hits on Youtube while her story has exploded across social and mainstream media platforms worldwide. Brittany's illness--Stage 4 Glioblastoma--is the deadliest form of brain cancer. Glioblastoma is something my family is all-too familiar with--my mother was diagnosed with stage 4. We urged her to fight it and she did, undergoing two invasive brain operations and months of debilitating radiation treatments. She lost her battle nearly six months to the day she was diagnosed, passing away at home in California where physician assisted suicide was and is against the law, as it is in the vast majority of the country including here in the Tri-State.

Gallup has been tracking American's feelings towards euthanasia since 1947. Back then just 37 percent said they approved of doctor assisted suicide. By the 1970's attitudes began to change with a slim majority in favor of a terminally ill patient's right to die. Today, the issue remains polarizing, but it really depends on how the question is worded: When "suicide" is used America is pretty evenly divided. However, remove the word suicide...for example...."ending a patient's life by some painless means" and a broad majority of the country stands firmly in favor of it. So perhaps it's no surprise that there are currently more than half a dozen states with pending right to die legislation that DO NOT include the word suicide in the title.

Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach is the author of SENATE BILL 1032 aka The Death with Dignity Act. Leach tells me his bill is designed to give people a say in how and when they die when their death is an inevitability; "This isn't really suicide...I think Brittany Maynard said it best...She said I have no desire to commit suicide I want to live. I would give anything not to have this cancer," says Leach, who also says his bill was framed, (in part), to include the words "Death with Dignity" in the title. And that's the bottom line: that as the country moves away from "physician assisted suicide" we might just see more states adopt right to die laws.

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