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Medical Aid in DyingMedical Aid in Dying| House with a Heart| Musicians on Call


Medical Aid in Dying| House with a Heart| Musicians on Call


Medical aid in dying, also known as assisted suicide, is a controversial topic that is debated worldwide. Some say it’s a humane way to end unnecessary suffering, while others consider it murder. Deborah Ziegler, mother of Brittany Maynard, was the subject of national scrutiny after supporting her daughter’s decision to end her own life. Suzanne meets with Debbie to understand the importance of Death with Dignity laws in terminally ill patient’s lives. 

Debbie’s daughter, Brittany, was passionate about everything that she did. When she was a young girl, she volunteered at animal shelters and involved herself in even more as she got older. Brittany’s diagnosis with terminal brain cancer was a shock to her family; they immediately went into denial. On the contrary, Brittany always understood and accepted her diagnosis – she knew very well that the odds were not in her favor. Debbie heard about the Death with Dignity movement, but never paid it much attention. She never contemplated the topic of assisted suicide until it became a possible option for her own child. After researching her illness and alternative options, Brittany decided that she wanted to end her life peacefully with the help of a physician. Even though it was hard to accept, the family decided it was time to stop running away from death and help Brittany go through with her decision.

Since California didn’t offer Brittany the option of Death with Dignity, they decided to move to Oregon. Oregon allows assisted suicide as an end of life option for terminally ill patients. The family’s first priority was to ensure that Brittany was comfortable with her final decision. Ironically enough, Brittany felt fortunate to move to Oregon and pursue the assisted suicide. She formulated a desire to speak out for terminally ill people who didn’t have Death with Dignity laws within their reach. Brittany’s plan relieved her of constant worry; the thought of death was no longer as intimidating as before, knowing it would be peaceful. 

Although Brittany is no longer on this earth, Debbie has continued her mission. On June 9th, 2016, California will allow the Death with Dignity act to officially go into affect for terminally ill people to die peacefully. Debbie tells Suzanne her plans to continue speaking out on Brittany’s behalf. She’s writing a book about her daughter’s life in hopes that the public will become more open to assisted suicide. Although Brittany died too young, Debbie couldn’t be prouder of her many accomplishments and the life she fulfilled.


House with a Heart isn’t your average retirement home… most of the residents have four legs! Many senior dogs and cats consider House with a Heart Senior Pet Sanctuary their loving home. Due to their age and various medical conditions, older dogs are not adopted often. Thankfully, Sherry Lynn Povinale provides them with a forever home to live out their golden years. Suzanne takes a trip to Maryland to see the House with a Heart Pet Sanctuary for herself.

Sherry, the Founder of House with a Heart, says that many of their residents are surrenders whose owners were incapable of caring for them anymore. Many dogs arrive to House with a Heart at the end of their life and live there until they pass away. House with a Heart is Sherry’s own home, and can house up to 25 residents at a time. All of the residents are on special diets, prescription diets and high-quality food. Feeding time for the animals is fun and crazy; everyone gets something different. Oddly enough, Sherry only leaves her home once or twice a year! She uses this time to go to the doctor or to do absolutely necessary tasks. When she leaves the house, she feels uncomfortable. Most of their pets need lots of special attention and care. Harriette Sackler, House with a Heart’s Vice President, says their program started slowly, but currently has 55 wonderful volunteers. 

Volunteers help by tidying up, grooming the pets, and showing them lots of love. The annual operating costs are $275,000 a year, which is covered by donations and short-term care of special needs dogs. There is also a medical fund that supporters donate to, which covers the vet bills. Each Friday, the volunteers take a different dog on an adventure. They drive to McDonalds for a hamburger and vanilla ice cream, followed by playtime in the park. When a pet passes away, Harriette or a volunteer stays with them. It’s very sad and they cry a lot, but photo is placed in their “Stairway to Heaven” as a memorial. House with a Heart’s goal for 2016 is to encourage more people to adopt an advanced-age pet from a shelter. Sherry tells Suzanne that her job isn’t difficult because she feels like she has a purpose every day. If you’d like to learn more about House with a Heart or find out how you can help, please visit


We’ve all heard the saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.” But how could we forget the healing power of music? Well, WXPN’s “Musicians on Call” certainly have not forgotten, and they are using the power of live and recorded music to heal patients in over 7 Tri-State area hospitals. Suzanne meets with several volunteers and musicians involved with the program to learn more.

Since 2004, Musicians on Call has helped more than 70,000 patients and their families. Volunteer guides and musicians work together to visit hospital patient’s bedside to transform the sterile environment with the sweet sound of music. Helen Leicht, WXPN’s Midday Host and Assistant Program Director, says Musicians on Call was started in the Philadelphia area and fueled completely by volunteers. Suzanne visits Jefferson Hospital for herself to see Musicians on Call in action. 

Jefferson Hospital is one of 7 hospitals in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware that participate in the Musicians on Call program; the program has also expanded to 15 other cities and is continuing to grow. Studies have revealed that listening to music can reduce post-surgical pain as well as anxiety in patients. One Thomas Jefferson Nurse, Evan Bosaczyk, tells Suzanne, “The patients look at the live music as a ‘pause’ button on their hospital stay; it helps them transcend their illness for some time.” Anthony R. Harrison, a Thomas Jefferson Hospital patient, says that the music revitalizes his soul and spirit and gives him energy when he feels weak. The program not only helps patients, but also their families, who are relieved to know that their relative is in good hands. After each visit, the volunteer performers are rewarded with warm smiles from the patients, and the patients are left with a great feeling of comfort. The Musicians on Call volunteers work hard to provide music as an amazing medicine that lifts spirits and heals the soul.


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