Florida lawmakers to consider ‘Death with Dignity’ bill

Proposal would allow terminally ill patients to choose a medical aid in dying option

Ellen Gilland made national headlines in January when police say she shot and killed her terminally ill husband inside his Daytona Beach hospital room.

Daytona Beach police said Gilland, 76, killed 77-year-old Jerry Gilland as part of a suicide pact the two had been planning.

At first, Gilland was charged with first-degree murder, but she has since been indicted on lesser charges of assisting self-murder/manslaughter and aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer.

Gilland’s story is one example of why Florida lawmakers will consider a bill during the upcoing legislative session that would allow terminally ill people to legally end their lives.

Tony Ray is the founder of Florida Death with Dignity and says although not as public, there are cases similar to Gilland’s.

“The story that happened in Daytona Beach hospital is very tragic,” Ray said. “And I believe if we had had a Florida End of Life Options act or some way for them to choose, that wouldn’t have happened.”

Ray said if Florida lawmakers were to pass this legislation, it would join 10 states and Washington D.C. in allowing a physician’s aid in dying option. It calls for a terminally ill person with less than six months to live to have the right to request medication from their doctor. If the medication is approved and prescribed, it would be self-administered.

The bill is 20 pages long and has multiple requirements, including counseling between the patient and a psychologist or psychiatrist to determine if they’re competent. To get the medication, the patient must make two verbal requests and then a written one.

READ: Full text of bill

Ray also points to Hospice, and while it helps countless patients, it may not work for everyone who is terminally ill.

“The Hospice is a wonderful organization,” Ray said. “But not everyone can, their pain and suffering can’t be solved through Hospice.”

But not everyone agrees. News4JAX found an opinion issued by the American Medical Association Code of Medical Ethics. It reads:

“Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks. Instead of engaging in assisted suicides, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life.”

“Individuals who don’t believe in this because of their religious or moral standings, we respect that,” Ray said. “We also ask, though, that you would not stand in the way of someone who had different beliefs and values than you do from utilizing medical aid in dying.”

A similar bill has been filed in the Florida House. If this passes, it would take effect this July.

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.