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July 19th, 2010
06:41 AM ET

Your life, your death, your choice?

A billboard in New Jersey is breathing new life into the right to die debate.

The billboard reads, "My Life. My Death. My Choice." It also displays the web address for Final Exit Network, which is a private, non-profit organization that supports the idea that people suffering what it terms "intolerable medical circumstances" be able to end their lives.

Final Exit Network's billboard is intended for terminally ill patients, but many people are concerned that young adults who see the billboard will see it as a suicide endorsement.

The Catholic Church is also speaking out against the ad. The Newark, New Jersey's Archdiocese message spokesman Jim Goodness says it's "completely incompatible with Catholic teaching."

We want to know what you think!

Please comment below and Kyra will read some during the 10am ET hour of the CNN Newsroom.

Filed under: Anchors • CNN Newsroom • Kyra Phillips • What the...?
soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Ali

    definitely a 3yr long depression patient...i know the extreme need for this

    July 19, 2010 at 7:11 am |
  2. Francine Menaker

    Of course the Catholic Church is against the sign, as is their right. I am not Catholic, I believe that , barring mental incompetence, we all should have the right to die with dignity on our own terms without needless suffering and without being subjected to intrusive medical efforts to prolong our lives.

    for too long the Church has dictated it "morality" to the rest of us. Indeed, here in NY we were the last state to get no-fault divorce in 2010 - largely because of the influence of the Archdiocese. Minister to your own flock. Tell me I will burn in hell. That is your right. But don't dictate the laws that apply to those who don't believe - that is a violation of the Establishment clause.

    Let the rest of us decide for ourselves. Death with dignity!

    July 19, 2010 at 7:12 am |
  3. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Our country has more respect for a wounded animal then a human being .

    July 19, 2010 at 8:03 am |
  4. Matt

    The billboard may be offensive, but it's a great marketing idea to get people talking about their organization.

    July 19, 2010 at 8:54 am |
  5. Dustin George

    I have no problem with the sign or the movement. I may not agree with their choice to end their life, but it isn't my place to tell them that they can't if they so choose.

    July 19, 2010 at 8:56 am |
  6. Sarah Twitty

    This is sending the message that human life isn't valuable. Being a teenager myself, I could see how other youth could see this as even a pro-suicide message. My life, my death, my choice? Thanks, but no thanks. I choose to live.

    July 19, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  7. Byron Carter, Maryland

    I'm not sure how people can be offended by this. If people want to end their personal suffering, how does this affect anyone other than the person involved, and his or her family? This is insanity.

    July 19, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  8. MackK-FL

    Not if the HCR zealots have their way! We will all be forced to buy medical insurance even if we don't want it, don't need it, don't ever seek medical care, and accept that age and/or disease will eventually take our lives. Not everyone is on a quest to live forever....and for those that are terminally ill, it's cruel and unusual punishment to deny them medically assisted suicide. Even the family dog gets a humane death with dignity when they become terminally ill or mortally wounded...but people? Nope, we just have to suffer and bankrupt our families with medical care we don't even want.

    July 19, 2010 at 8:58 am |
  9. Brittany M. H.

    The biggest arguement that Pro-Life supporters have is that the fetus is a human and isn't given any choice – well, now, they have a choice and they're arguing against it? Way to be a hypocrite – again! I agree that everyone has a choice of when they should die – both my grandparents died after suffering from long illnesses and if they had the choice to pull the plug on themselves earlier, of course, I would be upset, but I would know that it's what best for them. And that's what we should be consindered about – what is best for the patient.

    July 19, 2010 at 8:58 am |
  10. Louann Neusch

    Many thanks for reporting on this subject.
    The bilboard message can jump-start a much needed dialogue on this important topic.

    July 19, 2010 at 9:01 am |
  11. Steve

    I am all for one's right to chose to live or die. Who has the right to tell a person who is in a terminal condition and in constant pain with no chance of improvement that they don't have the right to determine their own outcome? Who has the right to tell another what they can do with their own existence? I suspect those screaming the most against this choice will be the ones someday, laying in a semi-conscience state in pain so doped up with drugs, pleading to "just let me die."

    July 19, 2010 at 9:04 am |
  12. Secular Joe

    The Catholic Church is also speaking out against the ad. The Newark, New Jersey's Archdiocese message spokesman Jim Goodness says it's "completely incompatible with Catholic teaching."

    That statement a lot concerns me. I am agnostic and don't want someone religious beliefs affect non-believers or people of different religion. I think people should have a right to end their life in a dignified and humane way if they are suffering for illness. As an another poster stated we treat are wounded animals more humanely

    July 19, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  13. Dana Buxton

    My mother had a stroke. She couldn't swallow. She could speak, could tell you her name, what happened to her and where she was. Knew us and had conversations with us. Asked for food. It took us four days to get them to feed her. She didn't want to die but the dr insisted that she should die and we should do so by starvation while she was aware of it. Maybe this was her time to go, she was old and had other health problems. However, If we are going to kill people like my mother off then we should be humane and do it quickly and without pain!

    July 19, 2010 at 9:09 am |
  14. Chris

    We simply can't allow signs like this to be shown in public! We don't want our children to be exposed to the obvious immoral behavior this billboard and its endorsers are attempting to advertise. What if they start to actually think about this issue and it makes them sad? Or worse, what if they actually form an opinion of their own?

    The billboard is an attempt to get viewers to the foundation's web site. There, you can see for yourself they aren't trying to support the life shortening of your typical depressed hypochondriac. What they are trying to do, is to give those who are about to pass on due to medical or age reasons a choice in how they finish out their lives.

    If you are "worried for the children" because of a billboard that isn't even trying to target them, maybe you should be more worried about your lack of parenting ability. Maybe you could spend time with your kids and talk to them about issues like this instead of trying to hide issues like this from them.

    July 19, 2010 at 9:09 am |
  15. Barb Overhiser

    I absolutely support the idea of older people being allowed–and helped-by medical community how to make choices regarding end of life decisions. Our system simply can't support the present practice of keeping elderly people alive under conditions with no quality of life. As a healthy 75 year old I do not want to live beyond my useful and realitive healthy time and want to be supported in making necessary choices. Barb Overhiser, Kalamazoo, Michigan

    July 19, 2010 at 9:13 am |
  16. Frank Kavanaugh

    We need a discussion in every community about the right of persons to choose a peaceful and dignified death. Many folks who suffer from an irreversible illness they can no longer bear want the rigfht to this option. It is a matter of personal choice and is a basic human right.

    July 19, 2010 at 9:24 am |
  17. Richard

    This past December I was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Just hearing my doctor tell this to my wife and I was totally devastating. Since then I have been placed on hospice care and I am fighting as hard as I can to stay alive and spend as much time as I possibly can with my family. I am surrounded by my loving and supportive wife and family and loyal friends , without whom I would have probably given up by now. With this disease , I am in constant pain but I have refused to take the morphine that was prescribed to me because I want to remain coherent so that I can enjoy what is left of my life with my family. The cancer has spread to my brain and in addition to the pain in my body I am now having to deal with embarrassing speech problems, inability to walk wihout assistance, killer headaches, constant fatique, and an assortment of other problems , depending on which part of the brain the cancer decides to hit today. After seeing the billboard on your program this morning , I had to email my support for the right to die movement. No one wants to live anymore than me, however, as this disease progresses rapidly to my liver and other organs I will become incontinent , incoherent and unable to live life with dignity. I thoroughly believe than anyone with a termilnal illness has a right to make their choice of when and how they want to end their life with dignity . So , to the ones who oppose this concept , I say simply , don't condemn me or the many other people who are in this same position until you have walked the same path!

    July 19, 2010 at 9:50 am |
  18. Matt

    If you don't have the right to die, what rights do you have?

    July 19, 2010 at 9:59 am |
  19. julie sommer

    i think Dr. Kavorkian is a true hero who started leading the way in this movement decades ago and we imprisoned him. the thing people don't mention in this debate: it is all of us healthy, mobile people trying to legislate what others-who are not so lucky, but who have excruciating ceaseless PAIN-do with their tragic and barely livable lives.

    let the individual (mentally competent, medically suffering, adults) DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES!!!

    July 19, 2010 at 10:07 am |
  20. rocky

    This is a choice I would hope I would have the freedom to make, much like I did for my beloved pets. This is between me and MY God, as I see him. I would hope YOUR God would still accept you into his arms if you ended your own life.

    July 19, 2010 at 10:11 am |
  21. Christy

    I was just talking with someone this morning about this, I think that it should be your right to choose to suffer or not to suffer. I think that if someone is suffering from a non cureable illness, should not have to suffer day in and day out and their family members should not have to watch them suffer niether. I beleive that this is the right way and should be our choice if we had to choose to do so.

    July 19, 2010 at 10:11 am |
  22. bernie

    people's life, people's choice..
    no different than the pro-lifers having billboards showing aborted babies for their propaganda...i'm all for personal health choices!

    July 19, 2010 at 10:26 am |
  23. Robbie

    It's a shame our language does not have the precise word . . . suicide keeps getting used to describe opting out of the miserable part of death. People who make that choice are not "suicidal." They want to live as much as the next person. Part of living is the right to make rational choices about your death, when the time comes. Sarah Twitty can make the choice to live, and that is her right. But it is wrong for our criminal justice system to be used to force everybody to comply with a religious doctrine that says we all must share the suffering of Christ on the cross. Most Christians agree. For the rest of you, whatever happened to the idea that people are supposed to come to Him by free choice? Why do you want to make people comply with scripture by threatening to send their doctors to jail?

    July 19, 2010 at 10:56 am |
  24. Derek Humphry

    At last we're seeing some reality about the one thing that no can avoid. The billboards are forcing us to think about the inevitable.

    July 19, 2010 at 11:18 am |
  25. Joel

    It is important to be clear what Final Exit Network(FEN) is intending to say with its billboards and what it is not saying.

    FEN is SAYING all of the following:

    Neither the law nor anyone or anything else should interfere with a mentally competent adult who chooses to end his or her life when the following circumstances apply:
    a. he or she suffers from a fatal or irreversible illness;
    b. he or she judges that her personal quality of life is unacceptable;
    c. he or she judges that her future is not a future of value for her.

    It is clear from this that FEN is NOTsaying that any person at any time and for any reason has the right to kill herself. FEN does not favor nor advocate nor encourage what is ordinarily thought of as suicide.

    It is also plain from this that FEN is NOT saying that a person who suffers from a fatal illness, etc., may rightly be killed by others or by the State. People who insist on the right to die insist on the absolute distinction between a person’s own autonomy and choices and the choices of others with respect to that person. FEN is as strongly opposed to killing people, including physically or mentally handicapped people, against their will as anyone is or ever has been.

    July 19, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  26. jerry dincin

    I could not imaging the agony of wanting to die for a real medical cause and not being able to do it. Final Exit Newwork is doing a great service for bring this issue out into the open. we should have more serious issues like this on cnn

    July 19, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
  27. DeeDee

    I have cancer and I don't want to die. I am taking all my treatments and tests and am working hard to be as healthy as possible. But if and when my cancer spreads and my pain is intolerable I will choose, without hysteria, to end my suffering. My family knows my wishes. Some don't agree with me but they all love me and respect my decision and plans.

    I am not religious and do not care what the Catholic bishops say. When they say I must suffer my physical pain for Jesus I become so very grateful that I have not given my personal choices over to strangers who would have me suffer. I want to live, but not in pain.

    July 19, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
  28. jimbo

    It seems reasonable that a mentally competent person, suffering from an irreversible illness or intractable pain, has the right to end their life, and the right to choose the timing, method, help, and companion, free of any restrictions no matter how well intentioned.

    That's what Final Exit Network says they are doing. They say it is
    "The Ultimate Human Right of the 21st Century" Sounds humane and right to me.

    July 19, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  29. Pat

    The Catholic Church has never been about choice. FEN is. Reproductive freedom, like end of life choices, are truly about reverence for existence, reverence for autonomy, reverence for individuality. Responsible, capable adults must be free to choose their fate absent the dogmatic dictates of churches. No church will tell me who to marry, how many children to have or not have, or how to die. I follow a higher moral authority: my own conscience.

    July 19, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
  30. wingsofcrystal

    As a cancer survivor I have thought long and hard about this issue. If the cancer ever comes back I don't want to have to worry about suffering and making my family suffer as I slowly succumb to this disease. We all have the right to die with dignity. Washington state passed a right to die law and I am so glad they did. People have every right to die without living in agony until their poor bodies can take no more.

    July 20, 2010 at 8:56 am |
  31. JLD

    It is time for government legislatures to look at our laws and update them accordingly. I can put a terminally ill cat to sleep peacefully at the vet's. Why can't a love one who is suffering and knows the end result is death have the same option? I do not want to lay in bed doped up on morphine and such for days or weeks letting my family watch. This is not life!

    July 20, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  32. J. Balfour

    After watching my mother and my godmother die from cancer, I support assisted suicide and the billboard that is bring this issue to the public debate. Anyone with a terminal disease should be allowed to choose this option if they want it.

    July 20, 2010 at 9:10 am |
  33. Bill Blank

    Finally! As a physician, it is arguably illegal for me to give pro-suicide advice to someone, and definitely illegal to give them a suicide kit. This provides a resource for those in great need to stop agonizing pain that will never go away. It provides a site I can recommend.

    I consider the "what if" arguments specious—what if a kid sees it, what if a young adult is encouraged... These considerations have nothing to do with those looking at agony for life.

    The religious arguments are not relevant. Our pleuralistic society demands that all can self-actualize, regardless of religious, moral or ethical views.

    July 20, 2010 at 9:21 am |
  34. Leila

    Its about time that some org . has decided to talk about this. It is not dignified to die , hooked up to machines, not eating on your own or able to go to the bathroom. Human beings are not science projects, and I hope I will have the option to die.

    July 20, 2010 at 9:44 am |
  35. Dennis

    Rita Marker, the lady currently talking should hope that she is never laying on her death bed and suffering, with the chance of living in pain for another year or so and told by someone else that is not suffering, she has to live with it because thats what the other person feels is right. It is a perfect example of a controlling person that wants to make everyone do what she believes is right. The world is run by controlling religious people that force their ideas on everyone else so they have the feeling of power. What a shame.

    July 20, 2010 at 9:45 am |
  36. Sam Bennett

    'Death with Dignity' has been the law here in Oregon for a decade now and will soon be in Washington. In all those years there have been no abuses, no stampedes to die, but it has been there for those terminally ill patients who need it. I'm proud that we were the leaders in this and I hope the rest of the country can follow. The Catholic Church and other right wing-nuts can just get over it.

    July 20, 2010 at 9:50 am |
  37. Stephanie

    Our country can absolutely use access to safe and comforting assistance in exiting life if that is a person's choice. If an individual definitely wants out, then having an option in an easy, comforting way sounds much more civilized to me.

    July 20, 2010 at 9:52 am |
  38. Lynda Clark

    Greetings Kyra, I strongly believe that no one has the right to tell another person what they can and cannot do with their own body. One may not agree with what someone plans on doing, but that is a personal choice. Our body is our own temple. Thank You, Lynda

    July 20, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  39. Richard Hill

    Kyra, Thank you for reporting how to commit suicide on the airwaves. Isn't that just the same as what you were asking the person on the air?
    I went online to find out how to do the same deed and there were 24million posts online on how to kill myself. I for one believe if I have the right to the "pursuit of happiness", then I have the right to " the pursuit of death" also.
    I can't see how the government or judicial system has any voice in how/when I die.
    They probably just want me alive as long as I can pay a tax of any sort to keep the government and salary seekers solvent.

    July 20, 2010 at 9:57 am |
  40. Carol Emge

    I am for assisted suicide. We take peoples dignity away. We take people
    that don't know who they are,that can't feed themselves, put them in a nursing home where they are strapped in a wheel chairs.What about people that are in a vegatative state,do you call that living?? Do you call that a dignified way to die? We treat animals better than we do humans.!!
    I think it is a crime to humanity, the things we do to keep people alive.
    If I want to die, rather than end up like that, it should be my choice!!

    July 20, 2010 at 9:58 am |
  41. mggregory

    As a neurologist I have seen people devastated by illnesses with no treatment and often no relief. A patient with ALS (Lou Gherig's disease) and emphysema choked for eight hours before dying while his wife looked on, helpless. Should there be options for these situations, I say yes.

    Depression is treatable, but so stigmatized that many patients deny it rather than seek treatment. Mental health care is expensive and poorly covered by insurance. We need to improve our mental health care system to avoid these suicides. Talking about suicide is not what prompts depressed people to take their lives, but it might help save them.

    July 20, 2010 at 10:00 am |
  42. Laurie

    My Father died last week with my Father-in-law dying within two days of Dad's death. My Mother is in end stage Alzheimer's. Both of my parents verbalized their definite wish never to linger in the event of debilitation. There wasn't a vehicle in place to assure the honoring of their wishes. It is a fate worse than death for the person fading into obsolescence and for those that love them more than life itself.

    July 20, 2010 at 10:25 am |
  43. LeeVee

    In this era where health care is so costly and there aren't enough resources for all those who desperately want to live, doesn't it seem insane to force people to stay alive who, steeped in misery and suffering, desperately want to die?

    A word to those who compare the morality of the death-with-dignity issue to that of abortion: In the case of abortion, there are two entities, the pregnant woman and the fetus. Here there is only one: the deeply ill patient. The Church's push to control how and when others choose to end their lives has nothing to do with morality. It's about control of one human being over another. Period.

    July 20, 2010 at 11:24 am |
  44. LeeVee

    Right now, health care resources are so limited that we don't have enough to adequately handle ill people who desperately want to live. So doesn't it seem insane to force people to live whose suffering makes them desperately want to die? Those who have tried in vain every remedy known to them and have nothing but misery ahead? What kind of society inflicts such an end on those already at the end of their rope? And why?

    The death-with-dignity issue has been likened to the abortion issue, but there is a huge difference. The latter involves two entities: a pregnant woman and a fetus. Here there is only one: a suffering human being. Those who would impose their religious or moral views on this most vulnerable of persons cannot claim the higher ground in doing do. It's about power and control. Period.

    July 20, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  45. Jeff

    I'm white and I say Shirley Sherrod for president! Shirley we love you.

    July 21, 2010 at 9:01 am |
  46. Joyce Harris

    We definitely should have the right to choose. I would like for any one of these” moralistic” hypocrites to have to care for and be with a loved one during a horrible death, slowly taking away their life in an agonizingly painful way. Then, see how they feel about “Choice”

    Dr. Kevorkian should have been treated as a hero, not a convict. Unbelievable that this country is still living in the Dark Ages

    July 21, 2010 at 10:57 am |
  47. Ron

    Too many people want to impose their will on others in this age of people's rights. The non smokers say they have a right to breath smoke free air, so they get laws passed to shove smokers outside.

    The right to end your life should be your business, whenever you please and for whatever reason you have. After all its your life.

    This decision by a person should be respected and supported by our laws and by our doctors, to allow a person to end their life in a painless and dignifed way so they don't have to use a gun, jump off a bridge or employ other horrible methods.

    People, mind your own business and defend other's rights as you defend your own.

    July 22, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
  48. fran schindler

    I am a 71 year old breast cancer survivor. I have been a member of FEn since it's inception. If my medical circumsrances change in any way that significantly impacts the quality of my life I will end it. FEN has given me the information and guidance I need to carry out my choice. Because of them I have tremendous peace of mind. An added benefit is that it enables me to gleefully throw all those solicitations for long term care insurance right into the recycle bin..

    July 23, 2010 at 9:08 am |
  49. Phoenix

    In response to the comments re the FEN billboard. "Because this--then that" is illogical and faulty reasoning.
    Billboards do not Cause adolescents or anyone else to commit suicide.
    What a wonderful opportunity FEN has provided to begin a dialogue about end of life choices as well as basic issues of death and dying.
    Death has become the last taboo even though it comes to all of us

    July 23, 2010 at 9:48 am |
  50. Richard MacD

    If the billboards initiate discussions of end of life options, that will be a plus for all. Bring death out of the closet and talk about it with your loved ones so they know your wishes. Judging by the amazingly positive and well stated comments on this site it makes one wonder why politicians are still so fearful of the religious far right that they fail to listen to what the majority of people believe about the wish to have dying with dignity available in this country.

    July 23, 2010 at 10:53 am |
  51. susanne streicier

    I think what Final Exit Network does is exactly what should be done. there is too much suffering in the death process and if a rational person wants to end it, that is their decision alone

    July 23, 2010 at 11:28 am |
  52. Don

    Why would any rational person prefer a slow, agonizing death rather than a swift, non-traumatic, painless death?

    July 25, 2010 at 12:24 am |
  53. Marti Collins

    I look forward to seeing more of these billboards. It models a truly compassionate community that does value life. How selfish to ask or even require a terminally ill loved one to suffer so that another might feel better.

    July 25, 2010 at 11:03 am |