‘Death with dignity’: Florida non-profit calls for medical aid in dying law

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A Florida non-profit organization is pushing for a law to allow people with terminal illnesses to die on their own terms.


The effort comes after police say 76-year-old Ellen Gilland shot and killed her husband inside a Daytona Beach hospital as part of a planned mercy killing. Investigators say the woman made a pact with her husband to kill him if his condition worsened.

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The plan to kill her husband then herself had been in the works for weeks, but after shooting him in the head, investigators say Gilland couldn’t go through with the rest of the plan.

Now, the group “Florida Death with Dignity” is pushing for a “medical aid in dying” law. They say Floridians with a terminal illness should be allowed the same autonomy and individual freedom while dying as they enjoyed while living.

Right now, 10 states have medical aid in dying statutes, as well as Montana where it was made legal by way of a 2009 state Supreme Court ruling. However, no such statute exists in Florida.

Florida Death with Dignity founder Tony Ray says Saturday’s standoff at AdventHealth hit close to home. He says his wife’s 96-year-old aunt was in hospice care with a terminal heart condition when she fell and suffered a serious injury.

“She was too old for surgery,” Ray said. “The morphine was not enough to stop the pain and anguish…it basically took three weeks for her to pass away.”

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After watching her suffer day after day, Ray says he’d seen enough to know he needed to do something to change the law, and he says Saturday’s incident at AdventHealth is shining a light on his cause.

“There is a lot of need for the public to be educated, and for legislatures to take serious this problem,” Ray said.

In practice, medical aid in dying would allow a mentally capable, terminally ill adult with less than six months to live the option to request prescription medication from their doctor that they can decide to ingest to die peacefully if their suffering becomes unbearable.

Ray says that peaceful option would be much more preferable to what took place in that 11th floor hospital room at AdventHealth Saturday.

“It was an extreme situation, what happened at the Daytona Hospital,” Ray said. “We need this option, this end of life option.”

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Ray says they’ve proposed legislation called the “Florida End of Life Options Act.” It’s modeled after the original medical aid in dying law created in Oregon in 1997.

Ray says they have a sponsor for the law in the Senate, but still need one in the House.

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