Stuffing with a Side of Suicide

By Maria Gallagher, Legislative Director

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Trip to Grandma’s? A cooking marathon? A touch football game?

CupcakeLeave it to the hope-killers of the suicide movement to take one of the great things in life and turn it into a mope-fest.

The Hemlock Society — now deceptively called Compassion and Choices — wants you to spend Thanksgiving Day talking about assisted suicide with your family and friends.

I have a better idea. Spend the holiday enjoying life. Express your thanks for all of your many gifts. Treasure your loved ones and tell them how much you love them. Celebrate all that’s good in your life and in the lives of those you care about. Take a deep breath and, as you exhale, remember how good — no, make that great — life can be.

The best antidote to the physician-prescribed suicide scourge is an enthusiastic “yes” to life. It’s a hope-filled declaration that, despite the detours along our individual journeys, each of our lives have meaning and merit — from the moment of conception to the instant of natural death.

This Thanksgiving, whether you’re dining with masses or having an intimate dinner with only a few, raise your glass and toast to life. It’s the one great gift no one has a right to take away.

Assisted Suicide, Quick Fixes, and a Lesson from My Dad

Growing up, my dad always impressed upon us the importance of doing a job well.

He didn’t believe in quick fixes. When we worked with him, we were expected to finish the job right. If we made a mistake, he helped us repeat the task until it was correct.

OldwomanPerhaps the biggest test of this work ethic came when my father took on the huge task of building a home for us. I remember when my siblings and I helped him measure and lay the cinder block foundation. I was about 14 at the time, and I remember thinking he was being very fussy about measurements. He told us, if the foundation was even a fraction of an inch off, it would cause major problems as we built the rest of the house.

Throughout the building process, he strongly emphasized that we must not take short cuts or try to quick-fix a mistake we had made. He promised that he wouldn’t be angry if we made a mistake, but he would be upset if we tried to cover it up. And he was true to his word. If we made a mistake, he was patient with us. He took the time to teach us how to do it correctly, though it created more work for him.

Now as I look back, I realize how vitally important that lesson is to my work today. A recent episode of 60 Minutes reminded me of the newest quick fix being proposed in our society – legalized assisted suicide.

The show focused on the case of Barbara Mancini, a Schuylkill County woman who was arrested after allegedly helping her 93-year-old father, Joseph Yourshaw, commit suicide. Mancini later was exonerated due to the lack of evidence.

Still, Mancini told 60 Minutes that her father should have had the option to commit assisted suicide. She said her father was in pain, and he told people he wanted to die. Mancini now is working with the pro-euthanasia group Compassion and Choices to push for legalized assisted suicide.

But Dr. Ira Byock, who was interviewed later in the show, exposed assisted suicide as a quick-fix solution that ignores the real issue.

Byock, a Dartmouth College professor and a medical expert in end of life care, reviewed Yourshaw’s medical and hospice records and discovered that he was not receiving adequate care for his pain. Byock explained that almost all pain can be managed with modern medicine, but many health care providers aren’t trained well in pain management.

He also pointed out that the elderly and terminally ill are often made to feel that they are burdens on society, and Yourshaw felt he was being a burden, according to his medical records.

Byock emphasized that the solution for people like Yourshaw is not assisted suicide but better end-of-life care and the assurance that their lives still matter.

But making that solution a reality takes a lot of hard work. Our job as pro-lifers isn’t easy, just as my dad’s job wasn’t easy. It takes patience and perseverance to help an elderly or ill person through their day to day life. It takes hard work and dedication for health care professionals to learn the additional skills necessary to help relieve patients’ pain.

But without hard work, what do we get? The quick fixes of assisted suicide and abortion. They take away something valuable that we can never get back, no matter how hard we work — an individual person’s life.

Dobson’s First Novels Take Look at Future of Abortion, Euthanasia

Last year, Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson introduced his first series of novels: “Fatherless,” “Childless” and “Godless.”

photoThe novels take place several decades in the future when America is trying to recover from an economic collapse. Julia Davidson, an acclaimed journalist, is famous for her columns that celebrate the global drop in fertility and criticize marriage and motherhood. As Julia digs deeper into the modern views of life and family, she begins to uncover the consequences of the value shift.

America has become a nation where almost all babies are genetically screened and pre-selected before being implanted in the womb. “Accidental pregnancies” are aborted and the babies’ bodies sold for money. Women who have multiple children are labeled “breeders.”

The government portrays the elderly and disabled as burdens, financial drains on their families and their country. In an effort to bolster the economy, the government encourages the large elderly population to “transition” (assisted suicide).

The novels take a futuristic look at American society and individuals’ right to life — but not in a dystopian way. What I’ve enjoyed about the books so far is the way Dobson and co-author Kurt Bruner make the future world seem realistic. Most dystopian novels paint a frightening picture of a concept taken to its extreme. Dobson’s novels, on the other hand, take a more moderate approach that makes readers think, “This could actually happen.”

He gives pro-lifers a picture of what our nation could look like if it continues to denying certain people a right to life. But his novels also bring hope that, through the work of pro-lifers, we can change people’s hearts and minds and restore a culture of life in our nation.

I recently finished the first two novels in the series. “Godless,” the third and final book, was released this summer, and it’s on my reading list. Put it on yours, too.

New Threat to Life in PA — Assisted Suicide

Euthanasia is something I don’t think about too often. Maybe it’s because I’m under 30 and healthy. Maybe it’s because assisted suicide is illegal in Pennsylvania and most of the U.S.

But now that there’s a euthanasia gOldwomanroup lobbying here in Pennsylvania, I’ve been reading more about this pro-life issue.

In his book “Assisted Suicide & Euthanasia: Past and Present,” Dr. J.C. Willke wrote that the problem with assisted suicide is that it judges that human life has only relative value, not absolute value.

Just take a look at Oregon where physician-assisted suicide is legal. According to Oregon Right to Life, the top reasons people request assisted suicide are losing autonomy, decreasing participation in activities, and loss of dignity.

These are value issues. At its roots, assisted suicide pushes the idea that some lives aren’t as valuable as others – maybe because they are disabled or they can’t participate in the same activities they once did. It leads to people devaluing themselves and others.

So what can we do to reverse this trend?

When a loved one is suffering, we need to ensure that they receive the proper medical treatment and pain relief. Most of all, they need our assurance that their life is valuable – no matter what their level of ability or degree of dependency.

Learn more by listening to our half-hour podcast where our Executive Director Michael Ciccocioppo and I discuss the issue in depth. Download it here.

Euthanasia Lobby Exploits Pennsylvania Case

A Pennsylvania case has caught the eye of the euthanasia lobby.
Compassion and Choices, whose roots can be traced back to the pro-euthanasia Hemlock Society, is representing a nurse from Philadelphia who is being charged with assisting in the suicide of her 93-year-old father.

According to a report, Joe Yourshaw was in hospice care when he asked his visiting daughter Barbara Mancini, who is a nurse, for his bottle of morphine.Gavel
A hospice nurse at the home told police that “her client had taken an overdose of morphine with the intent to commit suicide.” The hospice nurse said Mancini gave her father the morphine “at his request so that he could end his own suffering.” The hospice nurse called 911, and Yourshaw was revived at the hospital. He died four days later.

Mancini says she gave her father the medicine to help ease his pain, not to help him die.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office was asked to prosecute the case because of a conflict of interest at the local court level.

“If a person beyond a reasonable doubt committed assisted suicide, justice needs to be served and the law needs to be adjudicated,” Michael Ciccocioppo, executive director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, told ABC News. “But in a case like this one, which is so murky, unless there is real evidence to corroborate the charge, it’s hard to see how this would go all the way through.”

While the details of this specific case are not clear, the intentions of the euthanasia lobby are. The group is urging state Attorney General Kane to drop the case, by citing her decision not to defend a Pennsylvania law upholding traditional marriage. If the attorney general refused to defend that law, the euthanasia lobby argues she could refuse to defend the Pennsylvania ban on assisted suicide, too.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided unanimously in Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill that states have an interest in protecting their citizens from suicide, and they may ban assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Wesley Smith, an attorney and leading advocate against euthanasia, wrote about how the euthanasia lobby is twisting the court rulings to push their agenda here in the Commonwealth.

“Over 20 years of anti-euthanasia advocacy, I have come to realize that many activists on the other side care little for the truth, or indeed, facts. They just want to win!” Smith wrote on

The euthanasia lobby claims pain as a reason for legalizing assisted suicide, but studies show pain is not a leading factor in suicides.

In Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal, studies show that pain is one of the last reasons people give for committing suicide. Depression – a treatable condition – “is the only factor that significantly predicts the request for death,” according to Oregon Right to Life.

Pennsylvania’s ban on assisted suicide protects vulnerable people from being pressured into committing suicide.

“One thing is for sure,” Ciccocioppo said. “People in pain have a right to relieve their pain, and we don’t have a problem with that. But the same Supreme Court decision … also upheld assisted suicide laws and the rights of the states to say it’s not legal. We stand by that to the end.”