New push to help people facing imminent death

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by Sybil Hoffman

azfamily.com

Posted on December 7, 2012 at 10:12 AM

Updated Friday, Dec 7 at 10:20 AM

SUN CITY, Ariz -- Just weeks after a Sun City man shot and killed his sick wife, 3TV has obtained information about an effort to revamp the way Arizona handles terminally ill patients.

The 911 call reveals what happened moments after George Sanders shot his wife Virginia.

911 Operator:  "911 Emergency."
George Sanders:  "Yes.  My name is Sanders.  I just shot my wife."
911 Operator:  "Where at sir?"
George Sanders: "In the head."

But exactly what led up to a deadly shooting inside this Sun City home a few weeks ago remains unclear. According to Freda Anderson, President of Compassion and Choices Arizona, there is no doubt. "We live in a society where death is simply still taboo."

On November 9, 85 year old George Sanders went from loving husband to accused murderer.
Anderson told us, "For him to have the strength to do that, is amazing and unfortunately he too, will have to live with that decision for the rest of his days."

The shooting stunned neighbors and was quickly dubbed a mercy killing. The County Attorney took the case and Sanders were charged with First Degree Murder.

County Attorney Bill Montgomery points out, "There is no exception within our laws for quote unquote mercy killing.  There is no such defense."

Earlier that day, a doctor reported told Sanders' wife Virginia, that she needed immediate treatment for gangrene on her foot.

911 operator: "Did you shoot her on purpose?"
George Sanders:  "Yes, because they were going to take her to the hospital. and then, she's 81 years-old. and she has gangrene in her feet, in her right foot.  She has MS.  She has wounds and
she just didn't want to go and she said ,'shoot me, just shoot me'."

Anderson says too many people end up in crisis mode when facing a terminal illness. "She had the right to say, I don't want to go to hospital, what are my options."

Which is why Anderson's non-profit plans to introduce legislation next session called "The Right to Know" which is currently a law in California and New York requiring doctors to inform patients of their legal end of life options. "It's not the obligation of the patient to ask that information. It is again for the physician or the medical provider to be able to counsel them."

It's a law Anderson hopes would prevent situations like these from happening in the future. "When people have control over their destiny. When people know what options are available to them, they make different decisions then when they simply don't know."

If you'd like more information about Compassion and Choices Arizona, click here.

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