Florida group wants to create law that allows terminally ill people to decide their death following shooting at Daytona Beach hospital

76-year-old woman shot, killed her 77-year-old terminally ill husband, police say

A Florida group is advocating for terminally ill people to have the right to request a doctor to provide them medication to end their suffering after a 76-year-old woman fatally shot her husband in a Daytona Beach hospital, according to Daytona Beach authorities.

According to authorities, Ellen Gilland and her terminally ill husband, 77-year-old Jerry Gilland, had arranged a murder-suicide agreement.

Florida Death With Dignity is proposing the Florida End of Life Options Act, which would allow terminally ill individuals to ask their doctor for medication to help them pass peacefully. The group said this kind of law would help cut down on suffering from the illness and also not put family members like Ellen Gilland, in a difficult situation to make the decision she reportedly felt obligated to fulfill.

Tony Ray, president and founder of Florida Death With Dignity, founded the organization in 2020 and hopes that lawmakers will pass the proposed legislation. He said 10 states and Washington, D.C. have the option for terminally ill people to choose to end their lives with medication from a doctor.

“People suffer so much and when you have a loved one who suffers, it’s just a terrible thing to go through,” Ray said. “Someone who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness who has less than six months to live to request from their doctor, which they can self-administer the medication to hasten their life.”

Ray said for someone to be a good candidate for this option, they must be an adult and have a sound mind. Also, he suggests that their illness and mental capacity have to be checked by two doctors.

There are, however, some people who do not support the idea of a law like this being passed into legislation.

Father Leonard Chuwa, a priest at the Diocese of St. Augustine, said the proposed bill is something that the church is against because ending life -- even if someone is terminally ill -- is something that is not up to that person.

“We would be offended because you can’t act like God. You can’t take the place of God, and as I said no authority on Earth can decide when life should end,” Chuwa said.

Chuwa said the most important thing for families with terminally ill loved ones is to provide the best possible care until God calls them home.

Gilland did not harm herself and was arrested after confining herself in her husband’s hospital room. She was charged with one count of premeditated first-degree murder and three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Ray said the group has the support of a state senator who is willing to file the bill, once the group finds a house member who will support it.

About the Author:

Khalil Maycock joined the News4JAX team in November 2022 after reporting in Des Moines, IA.