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Health and Medicine


Cleveland billboard promotes 'death with dignity'
Opponents question where Final Exit Network is heading
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
The Final Exit Network billboard on I-77 near the East 30th exit in Cleveland. The backers say the campaign is intended to create dialogue, opponents fear assisted suicide is the group's political goal.
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier, WKSU
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In The Region:

Commuters heading into Cleveland on I-77 are seeing an exit sign this month that won’t take them downtown.  A highway billboard from the Final Exit Network is promoting ‘death with dignity’ as part of a national campaign.  Opponents say the billboard could lead Ohioans toward assisted suicide or worse.

Frank Kavanaugh is a member of the Final Exit Network, and the man behind the campaign and says it’s part of the group’s mission to spread the message that , “people who are suffering from an irreversible illness or unbearable pain have the right to end their life without restriction.”  

Kavanaugh says the billboard is not an attempt to legalize assisted suicide, rather to, “promote a dialogue within the community.” 

But Rita Marker of the Steubenville-based Patients’ Rights Council is not convinced.  For decades, dating back to Jack Kevorkian, her group has challenged the ‘right to die’ movement.  She views the Cleveland billboard as another salvo on that front.   She calls assisted suicide by another name, “doctor proscribed death”  and says the billboard is part of a grisly marketing ploy.

Marker says in Ohio the personal right to die is already adequately protected by the guarantees of a living will or do-not-resuscitate orders.  She says groups like the Final Exit Network feed on people’s fear of unwanted medical intervention.  

Although suicide is not a crime in Ohio, or any other state, Marker believes patients in pain or faced with a terminal illness should be provided further treatments, not death. 

But Kavanaugh maintains that the Network’s purpose is to guide its members through what it calls “self-deliverance” and doesn’t encourage anyone to take their life, or “provide the means for them to do so.”

  Final Exit Network provides information to members through ‘exit guides’ whose role varies from simply providing information, to in at least one case, something more.   Four members of the Final Exit Network are on trial in Georgia for their involvement in the suicide of an elderly man diagnosed with terminal cancer.  All four have pleaded not guilty.  Assisted suicide is legal in Oregon, Washington and Montana, and Kavanagh says Vermont and Massachusetts are considering similar measures.  He says there’s no question that someday, “we will all have the right to end our lives in certain circumstances.”      

Opponent Rita Marker fears that making assisted suicide a legal medical procedure may ultimately empower insurance companies to choose the cheaper option for a terminal patient , rather than prescribe expensive treatments to lengthen life. It’s a scenario she says begins with a billboard because, “it makes it seem a little more acceptable.”   Marker says the Final Exit campaign feeds the mentality “that there are people we’re going to discount and not provide the care they want and need and provide them a deadly overdose instead.”  

 

Meanwhile Final Exit Network spokesman Kavanaugh acknowledges that mid-winter Cleveland can be a little dreary  -  it was not his intention to add to that depression with his billboard.  He says the ‘die with dignity’ message will stay in Cleveland for a few more weeks before heading to highways in Boston and Chicago.

Jeff St.Clair examines the 'death with dignity' campaign

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Related Links & Resources
Patients Rights Council

Final Exit Network

Listener Comments:

PSA (physician assisted suicide) is a type of euthanasia, which originaly was defined as good death. we now consider it as mercy killing as well as illegal. however, slowly but surely more and more states are legalizing PSA and the subgect of euthanasia is grabing more and more attention from the people of the united states. Finally some people are realizing that when someone has a terminal illness and is in pain and they state that they want to die, they actually DO want to die for they want the suffering to end. My viewpoint on this is the following, if every waking moment of your life is going to be full of pain and suffering, then there is no point in living that life at all.The final exit network is standing up for PSA in a respectful and well manored way, unlike Kevorkian.


Posted by: Brett (Ohio) on May 4, 2014 9:05AM
Suicide will never be illegal, but helping someone do it should be. Terminally ill or permanently handicapped people need pills for depression, not pills for death.
Assisted suicide is a slippery slope. Look at the netherlands acceptance of killing newborns and those with certain psychological disorders. How are we different? Do we think we are immune to human weakness and corruption?
If you show mercy, you give someone a second chance: you do not take all the rest of their chances away from them. If you feel compassion, if you love someone, you see the value in their life even when they cannot.
Life is pain. We will all die. But that does not mean there is no reason to live.


Posted by: Sam on February 27, 2011 9:02AM
Suicide will never be illegal, but helping someone do it should be. Terminally ill or permanently handicapped people need pills for depression, not pills for death.
Assisted suicide is a slippery slope. Look at the netherlands acceptance of killing newborns and those with certain psychological disorders. How are we different? Do we think we are immune to human weakness and corruption?
If you show mercy, you give someone a second chance: you do not take all the rest of their chances away from them. If you feel compassion, if you love someone, you see the value in their life even when they cannot.
Life is pain. We will all die. But that does not mean there is no reason to live.


Posted by: Sam on February 27, 2011 8:02AM
I agree with the previous post by Jerry Dincin. People need to THINK about what they want at the end of their life. Unfortunately, many do not think and end up in bad situations. Some have no idea about what might happen to them. As has been said "First you have to get their attention" and using a billboard to "shock" is a great method of doing just that!!


Posted by: sheila cramer (florida) on February 19, 2011 12:02PM
If every human attempt to end unspeakable misery meant that every potential wrong must first be addressed, nothing would ever get done. Loved ones writhing in their beds cannot wait for laws or doctors or discussions to come around.
Fear of "unwanted medical intervention" is not to be dismissed so lightly. Whose body is it anyway? Whose decision? Who else but the patient knows how much suffering s/he can stand?


Posted by: LeeVee (Wynnewood, PA) on February 19, 2011 11:02AM
Kavanaugh and Final Exit Network is right on target. Some people have a fatal disease and do not want to suffer to the very last breath. Some people with alzheimeers do not want to spend years on the back ward of a nursing home subject to the indignities that occur there. Rational people, who have a fatgal illness have the right to end their own lives , even with assistance if needed.


Posted by: jerry dincin (chicago) on February 18, 2011 11:02AM
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