People who are terminally ill cringe at the thought of being stuck in a hospital bed with feeding-tubes and life-support apparatus keeping them alive…barely. Family members despair at having to watch helplessly as a loved one suffers. Several states in the U.S. are now passing laws that allow “assisted dying”. These laws essentially mean that people will have a say in how they wish to end their lives.
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.
Excerpt: Aid in Dying Movement Takes Hold in Some States by Erik Eckholm, NYT
“Helping the terminally ill end their lives, condemned for decades as immoral, is gaining traction. Banned everywhere but Oregon until 2008, it is now legal in five states. Its advocates, who have learned to shun the term “assisted suicide,” believe that as baby boomers watch frail parents suffer, support for what they call the “aid in dying” movement will grow further.
In January, a district court in New Mexico authorized doctors to provide lethal prescriptions and declared a constitutional right for a competent, terminally ill patient to choose aid in dying. Last May, the Vermont Legislature passed a law permitting it, joining Montana, Oregon and Washington. This spring, advocates are strongly promoting “death with dignity” bills in Connecticut and other states.
About 3,000 patients a year, from every state, contact the advocacy group Compassion & Choices for advice on legal ways to reduce end-of-life suffering and perhaps hasten their deaths.
Giving a fading patient the opportunity for a peaceful and dignified death is not suicide, the group says, which it defines as an act by people with severe depression or other mental problems.
And so for Robert Mitton of Denver, 58 and with a failing heart, the news from New Mexico last month was bittersweet.
I am facing my imminent death, he said, asking why people in Montana and New Mexico are able to die with dignity and I am not. This should be a basic human right.
Mr. Mitton’s frustrated quest draws attention to the limited choices facing patients in the large majority of states that bar the practice.
Opponents say that actively ending a life, no matter how frail a person is, is a moral violation and that patients might be pushed to die early for the convenience of others.
The church teaches that life is sacred from conception through to natural death, Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe, N.M., told legislators at a recent breakfast as he criticized the court decision there.
Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, which took effect in 1997, authorized prescriptions for lethal doses when two doctors agree that a patient will die within six months and is freely choosing this path.
By law and medical standards, only genuine residents who have relationships with local doctors can qualify for the prescriptions in any of these states, so patients like Mr. Mitton cannot move in at the last minute.
There is a quiet, constant demand all over the country for a right to die on one’s own terms, said Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices, and that demand is likely to grow, she said, as the baby boomers age.” Read more…
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group discussions and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Ask students to read the titles of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then have them examine the photos. Based on these sources, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article.They may use a dictionary, thesaurus,and Word Chart for assistance.
- Helping the terminally ill end their lives is gaining traction.
- Banned everywhere but Oregon until 2008, it is now legal in five states.
- Its advocates have learned to shun the term “assisted suicide.”
- A district court in New Mexico authorized doctors to provide lethal prescriptions for a competent, terminally ill patient.
- Giving a fading patient the opportunity for a peaceful and dignified death is not suicide.
- Robert Mitton is facing imminent death.
- Mr. Mitton is husky and garrulous, and does not look like a dying man.
- With his prior implant failing, he will not endure the surgery again.
- Mr. Mitton’s frustrated quest draws public attention.
- Some people facing imminent death are urged to seek hospice care as they consider their next steps.
Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- Public support for assisted dying has grown in the past half-century but depends in part on terminology.
- Recent polls have shown that people prefer the phrase “end life by euthanasia”.
- About 3,000 patients a year, from every state, contact the advocacy group Compassion & Choices for advice on legal ways to reduce end-of-life suffering.
- Overt assistance to bring on death, by whatever name, remains legal in most of the country.
- One method for some is to simply halt vital treatments, such as dialysis or insulin.
- Research in Oregon indicates that for many patients, just knowing the option is there is not enough.
- Mr. Mitton is an unusual case because he has written to the press.
- Mr. Mitton’s doctors at the Denver Health Medical Center say he will probably die within a year.
- There are three other cases similar to Mr. Mitton’s case.
- Mr. Mitton is exploring the international underground market for pentobarbital, a drug used in executions and animal euthanasia.
Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article.One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1,2,3,) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- Helping the terminally ill end their lives are gaining traction.
- In January, a district court in New Mexico authorized doctors to provide lethal prescriptions.
- This spring, advocates are strongly promoting “death with dignity” bills in Connecticut.
- Public support for assisted dying have grown in the past half-century.
- About 3,000 patients a year, from every state, contact the advocacy group Compassion & Choices for advice.
- Giving a fading patient the opportunity for a peaceful and dignified death is not suicide.
- This should be an basic human right.
- He wants a doctor’s help to end his life before he becomes too helpless to act.
- Mr. Mitton’s frustrated quest draws attention to the limited choices.
III. Post Reading Tasks
Reading Comprehension Check
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
- The article states, “In January, a district court in New Mexico authorized doctors to provide lethal prescriptions and declared a constitutional right for a competent, terminally ill patient to choose aid in dying.” Rephrase this statement in your own words and provide an example.
- In your opinion would people from different socioeconomic backgrounds be affected by the aid in dying movement? Provide reasons to support your answer.
- The article states, “Opponents say that actively ending a life, no matter how frail a person is, is a moral violation and that patients might be pushed to die early for the convenience of others.” Provide an example for this statement.
- With your group members make a list of reasons for and against the aid in dying movement.
- In your opinion what are the most important ideas in this article?
IV. Listening Activity
Video Clip: New Mexico Judge Says Doctors Can Aid In Dying
Published on Jan 15, 2014
The judge’s ruling could make New Mexico the fifth state in the U.S. to allow doctors to help terminally ill, mentally competent patients die.
Directions: Review the statements with students before the watching the video. As students listen to the video if a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- The case discussed was started by 2 doctors from Washington D.C.
- To be eligible for the assisted dying program the patient has to be terminally ill.
- The patient’s family, friends, and physician can assist them in dying.
- New Mexico is the fifth state to allow doctors to assist patients in dying.
- The issue draws criticism from atheist groups.
- Another criticism of the program is that and poor or weak patients can be pressured to end their lives early.
- Aja Riggs stated that if her cancer returns she wants the option to die peacefully at home.
- The term “assisted suicide” is the same as “aid in dying”.
- The states of Oregon, Washington Vermont and Hawaii already have laws in place allowing aid in dying.
- Oregon has had the law the longest since 1997.
Questions for Discussion
Directions:Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions.
1. After listening to this video has your personal idea of assisted dying changed in any way? If yes, describe in what way. If no, describe your original opinion.
2. Did you agree with everything that the speakers said? Discuss which comments you agreed with and which ones you tended not to agree with. Explain why.
3. With your group members, make up questions that you would like to ask the speakers.