The Rev. George Exoo, a self-described advocate for assisted suicide, has purchased property in Gastonia, NC where he hopes to assist individuals in killing themselves. He claims to have helped already more than 100 people to commit suicide, as well as talk people through the process over the phone. Because North Carolina does not have a law that specifically bans assisted suicide, he views our state and Gastonia, in particular, as an ideal place to assist persons who want to kill themselves. As he explained to the Charlotte Observer reporter and News 14 Carolina, Gastonia is near the Charlotte International Airport and is close to states like Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, and New York which would allow people easy access to his so-called "right to die" hospice.
North Carolina Right to Life (NCRTL) advocated for a bill several years ago that would have banned assisted suicide in NC. State Senator James Forrester, a physician, introduced the legislation. Unfortunately, the chairman of the committee where the bill was referred, had the ear of the Hospice and Palliative Care of the Carolinas that forcefully lobbied against the bill so the bill never got a hearing. The argument by the Hospice organization was two fold. First, it was said they thought that the bill would have a chilling effect on doctors' use of morphine to treat pain. Second, it was argued that NC did not have a problem with people helping others kill themselves, assisted suicide.
Morphine is a controlled substance; therefore, it is easy to get records showing the rise and fall in usage of the drug in every state. Fortunately for us, there was a study done that showed a direct correlation between the rise in the use of morphine and the strengthening of the laws banning assisted suicide. Hospice's first argument was easily refuted by the study. Still, the opponents of the bill would not budge.
Next, NCRTL learned that a documentary called Live and Let Go, An American Death was filmed in NC by a son and daughter showing their father committing suicide with their assistance. The purpose of the documentary was to make assisted suicide more acceptable. The documentary won an Asheville Film Festival award and the producers were interviewed on public radio with this writer providing the "right to life" position that those who wish to kill themselves need to receive treatment for depression and help with pain management, not help in killing themselves.
Today, there are reports in the Charlotte Observer and News 14 of the Carolinas that George Exoo, known as "Reverend Death" from the documentary by that name, is planning to set up shop in NC in large part because our state legislature did not act swiftly to ban assisted suicide here. He thinks it will take him a year to get his place ready for the killing to begin.
The state legislature must act in January 2011, when it reconvenes, to ban assisted suicide. If they do not act then, our state will later find itself fighting off a bill to legalize assisted suicide. Oregon and Washington states have already passed laws legalizing assisted suicide. The next logical step will be the state using our tax dollars to pay for assisted suicides rather than paying for expensive treatments to help cure a variety of illnesses. This has already happened in Oregon. If we are not diligent, our state could be next.