March 19, 2013
by Compassion & Choices staff
March 18, 2013
HELENA – Compassion & Choices Montana today announced a statewide radio campaign designed to educate the public on House Bill 505. The campaign, which begins airing ads this week, urges Montanans to contact their legislators and ask them to vote against a bill that would treat aid in dying as a homicide. Sixty-five percent of Montana voters want their own personal doctor to be able to comply with their end-of-life choices. HB 505, sponsored by Rep. Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel), seeks to put physicians in prison for up to 10 years for providing aid in dying to terminally ill patients who request it. It would change the legal landscape established in a 2009 state Supreme Court decision, which found that a physician could not be prosecuted for prescribing medication that a terminally ill person could take to bring about a peaceful death.
Dr. Eric Kress, featured in the ads, was a plaintiff in the Supreme Court case. Prior to his current position as a family physician at Western Montana Clinic in Missoula, Kress served as medical director at Hospice of Missoula for nine years.
“In my practice, I provide care and compassion to suffering, terminally ill patients at the end of their lives. But this bill would imprison doctors like me who help dying patients in extreme pain,” Kress said. “This bill would gut a Montana Supreme Court decision and allow big, invasive government into private medical decisions.”
Before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Baxter v. Montana, it was unclear whether physicians could help terminally ill patients who wished to end their suffering. On December 31, 2009, the Baxter decision made Montana the third U.S. state where aid in dying is a safe and legal medical choice. The ruling strengthened the 1991 Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, which allows mentally competent adults to make a declaration – Montana’s term for a living will. In 2009 the court ruled that the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act specifically defers to a patient’s own decisions and affords patients the right to control their own bodies at the end of life. HB505 would take that right away and weaken the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.
Governor Booth Gardner died last Friday, after enduring the long relentless assault of Parkinson’s Disease. He was 76 years old, and he’d fought the progression of his illness valiantly for more than 20 years. From 1985 to 1993 he served as governor of Washington and delivered much of lasting value to its people. In 2008, contemplating his own mortality, he brought them an aid-in-dying law and empowered them with the comfort of choice and control over needless suffering.
From September 2006 to November 2008 Booth led the Washington state campaign to pass a Death with Dignity law like the one in effect in Oregon since 1997. I remember well how his leadership emerged.
We had begun to think seriously about launching a Washington campaign for aid in dying in early 2006. With polling, focus groups and brainstorming we had begun to shape a proposed law and name it. We thought we were the logical leaders. We were veterans of two successful campaigns and three intense years defending Oregon’s Death with Dignity law from the state legislature, Congress, the U.S. Department of Justice and litigants in federal court. Twice we had brought the argument all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. We felt seasoned and successful.
Unbeknownst to us, Booth Gardner was also thinking about aid in dying, and starting to talk with his advisors and friends about a law to expand end-of-life choice. He thought this could be his final act of public service, and a lasting legacy to the people of Washington.
When we became aware of each other’s efforts, we met in the Seattle office of Compassion & Choices of Washington. Booth had not yet received the brain procedures that would later reverse some of his Parkinson’s symptoms and it was sometimes difficult to understand his speech. Nevertheless, he projected unwavering confidence and abiding good nature. He looked at us, the supposed “experts” seated around the table. Then he jabbed his thumb back over his shoulder with absolute authority, and said, “We’re going to have a campaign, and I want you all to get in line behind me.” So we did.
Booth was a strong and compelling campaigner. In September 2006 he spoke candidly to attendees at the Annual Conference of Elder Law Attorneys:
Many of you know that I have been struggling with Parkinson’s Disease for the past 15 years and some may think that my interest in an Aid in Dying law is because I’m tired of dealing with it.
Well, it is discouraging at times but I have a lot of plans for the future involving new initiatives in education, new woodworking projects, more trips to watch a grandson’s baseball games and a chance to make new friends – just to name a few of the things that I look forward to in the years to come.
Just the same, my struggles with this disease remind me of my mortality every day. I understand suffering differently now than I did before my Parkinson’s symptoms began. I can more clearly imagine myself in the place of people who know they will not get better – that their end is very near – and whose only quality in life is misery.
So, I understand better now why an Aid in Dying law is so important both for people who might use it and for those who look on with compassion as loved ones suffer intolerably through their final days.
Working with Booth on his campaign was a joy and a privilege. His energy never flagged; his spirits never wavered. He never persuaded the anti-choices folks to see things his way, but his good heart did persuade them of his high regard and good wishes.
He was as principled as he was kind, telling audiences, “While we respect other beliefs, we need to make it clear that we are bringing this proposal because of our own deeply held beliefs that it is the right and compassionate thing to do.”
Thank you, Booth, for your vision, your leadership, and your kindness.
We have had great success in this year’s legislative session in Connecticut with the introduction of “An Act Concerning Compassionate Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill“.
The next step is a public hearing, where we all must make our voices heard. That hearing will take place:
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 10:30 a.m.
Legislative Office Building — Room 1D
300 Capitol Avenue, Hartford
The proposed Connecticut law is similar to laws passed in Oregon and Washington state. It offers dignity at the end of life and gives terminally ill patients in great pain the choice to ease and end their suffering. The law includes key safeguards: The patient must have six months or less to live and be deemed mentally competent.
It guarantees we — not the government — will make our own end-of-life decisions. Furthermore, as we know, “Death with Dignity” laws have worked without abuse with the same safeguards the Connecticut law would have.
BUT we still have a lot of work to do.
Right now, we want legislators to hear from Connecticut citizens like you. If you can attend the hearing, contact Tim Appleton today at email@example.com or by calling 860.922.1988 to help send a message to legislators during the public hearing.
We know our opponents will be there, so please come show your support as well.
You can also help by following this link to contact Connecticut lawmakers. It’s quick, easy and impactful!
Aging in America Conference panel sponsored by the Compassion and Choices: “What is Patient- and Family-Centered Care and What Happens When We Fail to Prevent It?” Patient-centered care should not include unwanted medical treatment and unnecessary suffering. Yet millions of Americans with advanced illnesses or who are terminally ill:
A new study published in Feb. in the Journal of the American Medical Association examining Medicare claims data found that between the years 2000 and 2009 treatment in acute care hospitals decreased while the usage of intensive care units (ICU) and healthcare transitions the last month of life increased. An accompanying Journal of American Medical Association editorial, “Changes in End-of-Life Care Over the Past Decade More Not Better,” concluded: “The focus appears to be on providing curative care in the acute hospital regardless of likelihood of benefit or preferences of patients. If programs aimed at reducing unnecessary care are to be successful, patients’ goals of care must be elicited and treatment options such as palliative and hospice care offered earlier in the process than is the current norm.”
Mickey MacIntyre, Chief Program Officer, Compassion & Choices (read his testimony about how unwanted medical treatment at life’s end causes needless costly suffering before the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Transforming End-of-Life Cares);
Lynn Feinberg, MSW, Sr. Strategic Policy Advisor, AARP Public Policy Institute;
Brian Lindberg, MMHS, Exec. Dir., Consumer Coalition for Quality Health Care;
Andrew MacPherson, Director of Government Affairs at Jennings Policy Strategies Inc.
Crystal C (West Tower/Green Level), Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Wacker Dr.
Friday, March 15, 1pm-2pm CT. If you cannot attend panel but want an interview Tuesday (March 12) Wednesday (March 13), Thursday (March 14) or Friday (March 15) with Compassion & Choices Chief Program Officer Mickey MacIntyre, please contact Sean Crowley: 202-550-6524, firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to attend panel, but have not registered yet for the Aging in America Conference, please contact Jutka Mándoki: email@example.com, 312-239-4834.