AZ's 'Death with Dignity' bill dead on arrival

Posted at 5:49 PM, Mar 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-31 21:52:20-04

On a desk in the Arizona State Senate Chamber, there’s a picture of a man with quite a story.

"It's the last memory I have of him, and it was a very horrific one, and watching him suffer and suffocate to death,” said State Senator Barbara McGuire, a Democrat representing Kearny, Arizona.

State Senator McGuire is talking about her dad, World War II Navy Lieutenant Commander Richard Elliott.

He flew planes during the war and landed on aircraft carriers in the middle of the ocean. McGuire says he died after a torturous battle with COPD a number of years ago. "I love my dad very much, I miss him very much. I sat with him in his last days and hours,” said McGuire.

McGuire says the experience changed her. She sponsored an end of life choice bill, known as SB1136, that, so far, has been dead on arrival.

"It hasn't gotten a hearing here at the state capital, there are folks, there's a chairman that refuses to hear the bill,” explained McGuire.

For opponents, it’s a political and religious issue.

For Barbara McGuire and others like her, it’s much more than that.

"In 2014, I received a terminal diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis,” said Denny Flaherty.

In simple terms, Flaherty’s body will eventually starve itself of oxygen, leading to organ failure. For now, he checks his oxygen levels constantly. But, there’s nothing doctors can do to slow or stop it.

"It's not that I'm afraid of dying, it's just that I question the need to glorify death by suffering for months on end,” said Flaherty.

McGuire says her bill has specific language. "Patients must be terminally diagnosed by 2 doctors and given a prognosis of 6 months or less to live," she said. "There has to be witnesses, and written and oral requests made by the person, twice."

Since the Senate won’t give her a hearing on the bill, McGuire is going to go around the state and hold town hall meetings, to answer questions with voters face to face, in hopes of gaining support to pass the bill next year.