Fighting Assisted Suicide = Giving Hope

Elderly holding hands


By Maria Gallagher, Legislative Director

When my father died, the emotional pain experienced by my mother, sister, and myself felt overwhelming. He was the rock of our family, our protector, and the world felt a little less safe without him in it.

Yet, we were consoled by the fact that medical personnel had done everything they could to save his life. The best medical equipment gave him every opportunity to rebound. But sadly, he just could not recover.

I think of my father when discussions turn to assisted suicide–or, more appropriately referred to as doctor-prescribed suicide. Proponents argue that it is the solution to what ails many in our society–the feeling of a loss of control, the fear of intractable pain.

And yet, doctor-prescribed suicide leads to a host of problems. The vulnerable and the mentally ill are especially susceptible.

Consider this statement from Dr. Charles Bentz: “Instead of helping my patient, (a) once-trusted colleague decided my patient was ‘better off dead’ and became an accomplice in his suicide.

“This is the real tragedy of assisted suicide in Oregon. Instead of providing excellent care, my patient’s life was cut short by a physician who did not address the issues underlying his suicidality.”

Research indicates that as many as 90 percent of suicides in this country are linked to  mental illness, most notably depression. Yet in 2015, a paltry 5 out of 132 assisted suicide victims had obtained psychiatric counseling.

It is also important to note that, when individuals choose assisted suicide, pain, or even the fear of pain, ranks at the bottom of the list of reasons for their decision. Rather, the top reason listed is losing autonomy, or independence.

Fighting assisted suicide equals giving hope. We must redouble our efforts to attend to patients’ physical and psychological needs, so that doctor-prescribed suicide is not only unappealing, but also unthinkable.

A Doctor’s Duty

Elderly handsBy Maria V. Gallagher, Legislative Director

The late Charles Krauthammer had a provocative way of writing that cut through to the heart of the matter.

His son Daniel recently released a posthumous collection of his father’s writings, entitled The Point of It All. While Krauthammer did not always fully embrace the pro-life viewpoint, his column on “A Doctor’s Duty” proclaims the physician’s role in preserving innocent human life.

Krauthammer wrote, “Even if the patient asks you to, you may not kill him.”

He went on to blast the trend toward doctor-prescribed suicide.

“In some advanced precincts–Holland and Oregon, for example, this is thought to be a quaint idea, and the state permits physicians to perform ‘assisted suicide.’ That is a terrible mistake, for the state and for the physician. And not only because it embarks us on a slippery slope where putting people to death in the name of some higher humanity becomes progressively easier.”

Krauthammer explained, “Even if there were no slippery slope, there is a deeply important principle at stake. Doctors are healers, not killers. You cannot annihilate the subject you are supposedly serving–it is not just a philosophical absurdity, it constitutes the most fundamental violation of the Hippocratic oath. You are not permitted to do any harm to the patient, let alone the ultimate harm.”

That is exactly what assisted suicide is–the ultimate harm. May public officials now take Krauthammer’s immortal words to heart.

Pushing Doctors to Perform Assisted Suicide

Assisted suicide 2

By Maria Gallagher, Legislative Director

The old Hemlock Society wants to push doctors to perform assisted suicide–which is more aptly described as doctor-prescribed suicide.

Under the revised name of Compassion & Choices, they want the American Medical Association to end its long-standing opposition to the lethal practice. You can urge the AMA to stand strong by clicking here.

In addition, the lawyer who tried to create a Roe v. Wade-style judicial edict for assisted suicide is now suing a California hospital that refused to perform doctor-prescribed suicide. As ethics expert Wesley Smith notes:

The lawsuit illustrates where the assisted suicide/euthanasia movement wants to go. As in Ontario, Canada, they want doctors and hospitals to be forced to participate in assisted suicide or get out of medicine.
For resources for fighting the threat of doctor-prescribed suicide in Pennsylvania, visit .

Why This Veteran with Cancer Opposes Assisted Suicide

JJ Hanson & family

J.J. Hanson is a natural fighter. He fought for his country as a Marine. He combatted cancer as a civilian. And now he is battling doctor-prescribed suicide in his role with the Patients Rights Action Fund.

In 2014, Hanson was told he had four months to live, after having been diagnosed with brain cancer. But he has refused to give up on his life, or the lives of other people placed in vulnerable positions by some insurance companies and members of the medical establishment.

As he told the Daily Signal, “People who are making end-of-life decisions have basically been told ‘We’re not going to give you what you’d like to get, but we will give you assisted suicide,’ which is very scary for someone like myself.”

Hanson’s wife, Kristen, is supporting him wholeheartedly in his fight against doctor-prescribed suicide. Kristen told the Daily Signal, “It’s really not about offering more choices. It takes choices away from patients like J.J. who want to fight,”

To read more about the Hanson’s fight, click here.

To find out how you can stop the legalization of doctor-prescribed suicide in Pennsylvania, click here.

Check Out New Edition of Our Pennsylvania Pro-Life Newspaper

It’s here! The Summer 2015 issue of our LifeLines newspaper is hot off the presses.

LifeLinesSummer2015deskphotoOur team puts a lot of effort into every issue of LifeLines, and this summer’s edition is no exception. In this issue:

  • The Fight for Life – and Against Assisted Suicide in Pennsylvania
  • State Government Website Linked Women to Pro-Abortion Group
  • First-place student essays from this year’s Pennsylvania Pro-Life Essay Contest
  • Healing programs for women and men who have been involved in abortions
  • ANNOUNCING: Our 2015 Celebrate Life Banquet speakers – Don’t miss this special event!
  • Real Alternatives celebrates 20 years of helping Pennsylvania moms and babies
  • And more …

Click here to read our LifeLines Summer 2015 issue online. We hope you enjoy it!

What Circles the State Each Spring? Our Pro-Life Town Halls

By Michael Ciccocioppo, Executive Director

This was my fifth year leading the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation town hall tour around the state. I was privileged to have our education director, Micaiah Bilger, as my co-presenter this year.

0 Michael and Micaiah

Executive Director Michael Ciccocioppo and Education Director Micaiah Bilger

Based on the feedback we received at every stop along the way, the tour was an unequivocal success. People genuinely appreciate our brand of pro-life education. And we reached hundreds of citizens in their hometowns.

We traveled 1,200 miles in seven days this month, speaking in 11 different communities, starting in Ebensburg and continuing on to Uniontown, Pittsburgh, Titusville, Erie, State College, Scranton, Nesquehoning, Easton, Philadelphia and Lancaster. We have one last stop to make in Grove City on September 16. Click here for details.

People like the way we provide the most important information on some of the hottest pro-life topics of the day with high energy, passion and plain English.

This year, we covered seven topics at each stop:

  • The state of abortion in Pennsylvania
  • Gov. Wolf’s ties to the abortion industry
  • Hope for parents whose babies have poor prenatal diagnoses
  • Abortion and medical rationing in the era of the Affordable Care Act
  • The push for doctor-prescribed suicide
  • Encouraging signs for the pro-life cause
  • What you can do to help restore the culture of life in Pennsylvania

Since each event is one-and-a-half to two hours long, we keep our talks brief and focus on the most important aspects of each topic. When people want more details, we provide them during Q&A.

Special thanks to all those who hosted this year’s pro-life town halls. Check out a slideshow of photos from all these events here.

If you or a group would like to host a pro-life town hall in your community in 2016, contact the Federation at or 717-541-0034.

New PA Resources on the Threat of Assisted Suicide

This spring, two bills that could legalize doctor-prescribed suicide were introduced in the Pennsylvania House (HB943) and Senate (SB549).

Giving helpEuthanasia advocates are targeting Pennsylvania and about a dozen other states right now, trying to push their deadly agenda. They have already succeeded in five states.

Here are a few ways you can learn more about this growing threat:

  • The Pennsylvania Coalition to Stop Doctor-Prescribed Suicide now has a website. Visit for facts, issue papers, videos, and other resources. And follow the Coalition on Facebook and Twitter. The coalition is a diverse network of disability rights activists, medical professionals, and other groups who believe in compassionate care of people with disabilities and terminal illness, rather than the dangerous practice of doctor-prescribed suicide.
  • We have several fact sheets available: Oregon’s Assisted Suicide Law: Safeguards Don’t Work, and Threat of Doctor-Prescribed Suicide in Pennsylvania. Read them online or request copies from our office.
  • Sign up for our twice-monthly Online Newsletter to receive regular updates about what’s happening in Pennsylvania and what you can do to help protect lives.

We are working hard to educate the public about the threat of doctor-prescribed suicide. Please help us by informing yourself and your friends.

Come Listen, Learn and Connect at Pro-Life Town Hall Meetings


This April will be my third time traveling across the state for our annual Pro-Life Town Hall Tour.


Micaiah Bilger

The tour is one of the ways we bring the latest pro-life information to people all across the state. We’re planning to share up-to-date news on a variety of topics, including abortion trends in Pennsylvania, dealing with a poor prenatal diagnosis, the push for assisted suicide, the Affordable Care Act, Q&A and more.

I love the tour because we offer a pro-life perspective that people can’t get anywhere else. But most of all, I love having the opportunity to connect with people all across the state.

I love when a grandmother comes to me after a meeting and shares a picture of her grandson who was almost aborted. I love when a teenager eagerly asks me what she can do to help moms and babies. I love listening to the decades-long pro-lifers, because their stories encourage me to keep going strong. And I love talking with the people who aren’t sure where they stand on the life issues and are looking for answers.

Our Pro-Life Town Hall meetings are an opportunity to learn, ask questions, and connect with the people around us.

I hope you’ll join us in Ebensburg, Uniontown, Pittsburgh, Titusville, Erie, State College, Scranton, Nesquehoning, Easton, Philadelphia, Lancaster or Grove City. Click here for details.

And please take a moment to say, “Hello.” I’d love to connect with you.

Airplanes, Alzheimer’s, and My Grandfather’s Last Days

My mind jolted to a stop last week as I read an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about Barbara Bitros.

The 64-year-old woman is a former hospice nurse who doctors say may have early signs of Alzheimer’s. Bitros, an advocate for assisted suicide, has made plans to end her life because she is afraid of living with dementia.

She told the reporter:

“I fear the long, painful, humiliating process where you don’t know who you are or who anybody else is. Nobody should ever die like that.

“I want my grandchildren to remember me as a warm and loving person who’s still capable of reading them books and making them dinner.”

I felt a dark cloud of sorrow shadow my heart as I read her words, and my mind flashed back to memories of my grandfather.

When I was about 8 years old, I watched my grandfather’s life rapidly deteriorate because of Alzheimer’s. His dementia was doubly difficult because it was coupled with trauma from his World War II days. He was rarely at peace, even before the Alzheimer’s set in.

It was more than 20 years ago, but I still vividly remember those last days with Grandpa. Mostly, I remember the times when Grandpa played with my little brother. They often sat together on the kitchen floor playing with airplanes, balls, or tops. When they were together, Grandpa was calm and happy, and the whole family felt at peace.

Even when my grandfather went into the hospital, he connected with me and my siblings in meaningful ways. Grandpa often pulled out his harmonica and played us tunes from his military days. He didn’t remember who we were; he couldn’t read books to us or play on the floor, but we knew he loved us.


Had my grandfather decided to end his life before the Alzheimer’s, my brother never would have known him. My brother was only about 3 years old when Grandpa died, and his memories of Grandpa are few and vague.

But he remembers them playing airplanes together. Flying was something Grandpa always wanted to learn but never had the means to. Inspired by our grandfather, my brother worked hard and saved his money to begin flying lessons. He flew his first solo flight before he had his driver’s license.

Thinking back, I realize how meaningful my grandfather’s life was even in those last days. It’s why I hope Bitros won’t discount the value of her life, even as her memory fades. She clearly loves her grandchildren very much. I hope that she will see that, even with dementia, she can love and inspire her grandchildren just as my grandfather did.

Why Disability Rights Groups Oppose Assisted Suicide

The disability rights community is one of the most vocal opponents of assisted suicide.

Many news outlets stereotype opponents of assisted suicide as merely religious; but we who fight to protect people against the threat oPillsf assisted suicide come from diverse backgrounds.

It was refreshing to see the news website The Daily Beast acknowledge that in a recent article, “Why Disability Advocates Say No to Doctor-Assisted Death.”

Many disability rights groups say assisted suicide presents a dangerous double standard about the value of people’s lives.

Reporter Elizabeth Picciuto presented the following situation:

Suppose a good friend of yours says that she wants to kill herself. You, and most people close to her, would probably try to help her so she did not feel that suicide was a viable option. Suicide prevention would be the goal of the medical profession, of family and friends. Not, however, in the case of someone seeking physician-assisted death.

“The difference is your health or disability status. Then suddenly suicide is a rational decision,” Diane Coleman, president and CEO of Not Dead Yet, a disability-rights group that advocates against assisted suicide and euthanasia, told The Daily Beast. “We think equal rights should also mean equal rights to suicide prevention.”

Samantha Crane, director of public policy for the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, said the emphasis should be on offering better care, not death, to people who are suffering.

“People believe that opposition to physician-assisted suicide is a belief that it’s noble to suffer, or that people shouldn’t have the ability to control their care when they are seriously ill,” Crane told Picciuto. “That is not the basis of our beliefs. Our goal is to make everyone happier, and to make sure that they have quality lives and help them have access to everything they need so that they do not want to die.”

The full article is worth reading. However, the reporter’s bias does come through on certain points. For example, Picciuto claims that Americans strongly support doctor-prescribed suicide; but she fails to acknowledge that polls vary widely depending on how the question is asked.

This winter in Pennsylvania, two bills have been proposed to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide. Click here to learn more.