End-of-Life Choice, Death with Dignity, Palliative Care and Counseling

General News

End-of-Life Liberty Survives Another Legislative Session; In a Victory for Terminally Ill Montanans, Aid in Dying Remains a Medical Option

Compassion & Choices Praises Legislature for Respecting Dying Montanans’ Independence as It Adjourns for the Session

(Helena, MT – April 28, 2015) By adjourning today, the third legislative body in six years officially rejected further attempts to jail doctors for writing aid-in-dying prescriptions for terminally ill adults who wish to end their suffering at the end of life. This medical option was authorized for Montanans by a 2009 state Supreme Court ruling in Baxter v. Montana. Since that ruling, multiple attempts have been made by a small group of lawmakers to repeal the end-of-life options the court made available. Each time, a bipartisan majority of legislators has defeated their effort as they did today, delivering a victory for Montanans.

“Enough,” said Emily Bentley, Compassion & Choices Montana campaign manager. “Our courts have told us that end-of-life autonomy is protected under state law, and aid in dying is working exactly as intended for Montanans. It has given peace of mind to so many whose worlds were turned upside down by a terminal prognosis.”

Bentley thanked the bipartisan majority of lawmakers for “respecting the rule of law and trusting Montanans to make their own medical decisions.” She implored opponents, “Stop trying to overrule public opinion and our judiciary. Stop introducing these intrusive, oppressive bills.”

Despite a series of efforts to criminalize medical aid in dying this session, the legislature adjourned on April 28, 2015 without passing HB477 or a similar bill, HB328: “The Physician Imprisonment Acts.” There were a total of three hearings, three committee votes and four floor votes. More

Jeb Bush’s Suggestion to Require Medicare Recipients to Complete Advance Directives Called “Step in Right Direction”

Compassion & Choices Says Enforcement of Advance Directives Is Better Solution 

(Portland, OR – April 17, 2015) Likely GOP presidential contender Jeb Bush’s suggestion to require Medicare recipients to complete an advance directive is a step in the right direction, according to Compassion & Choices, the nation’s leading end-of-life choice organization.

Bush made the suggestion today in Manchester, NH, while defending his role as Florida governor to keep alive a brain-dead woman, Terry Schiavo. Her family battled over whether she would continue to receive artificial feeding after being in a vegetative state for 15 years.

But Compassion & Choices proposes an alternative solution: providing incentives to Medicare beneficiaries to complete advance directives and discuss their end-of-life wishes with healthcare providers, as well as denying payment to healthcare providers who fail to honor patients’ end-of-life wishes.

“We favor a carrot-and-stick approach because without an enforcement mechanism, advance directives often are ignored,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney who was an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years. “Terry Schiavo was a young woman, so her case is exhibit A of why adults of all ages should complete an advance directive and discuss their end-of-life wishes with their loved ones.”

One out of four older Americans say that either they or a family member have experienced excessive or unwanted medical treatment, the equivalent of about 25 million people, according to a poll last year conducted by the research division of Purple Strategies, one of the top-five most accurate polling firms in the 2012 election.

The Compassion & Choices website allows users to access advance directives for every state: www.compassionandchoices.org/what-we-do/advance-directive/.

National Healthcare Decisions Day, April 16, Is Time to Make End-of-Life Plan

Compassion & Choices Website Has Tools to Ensure You Only Get End-of-Life Care You Want

(Portland, OR – April 14, 2015) Only one in four Americans has completed an advance directive expressing their end-of-life healthcare wishes, so Compassion & Choices is urging all American adults to make their end-of-life plan as part of National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), April 16.

“Most people want to die at home, surrounded by their loved ones,” said Compassion & Choices Medical Director Dr. David Grube, a board-certified physician in family medicine. “Completing an advance directive is a key part of end-of-life planning with your family to ensure your healthcare wishes are honored.”

In fact, advance directives are associated with a lower likelihood of patients dying in the hospital, according to a 2011 study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association. An advance directive actually is two legal documents – a living will and medical power of attorney – that enable people to express their end-of-life wishes to their family and healthcare providers so they honor those wishes.

“If you do not put your end-of-life wishes in writing and appoint a healthcare advocate dedicated to ensuring they are fulfilled, medical professionals are likely to recommend invasive and painful ‘treatments’ even if they may extend your dying process and reduce your quality of life,” said Grube, whose mother refused to even discuss her end-of-life wishes and suffered as a result. “Completing this process provides your loved ones with evidence of your end-of-life wishes and formally notifies healthcare providers about them.”

Compassion & Choices’ website offers the best resources available to help you with your healthcare planning needs at www.compassionandchoices.org/what-we-do/end-of-life-consulting/.

These tools include Compassion & Choices exclusive Good to Go Resource Guide. It provides ideas, inspiration and information on thorough, effective end-of-life preparation. Compassion & Choices also offers an exclusive dementia provision you can add to your advance directive. An estimated 5.2 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Most advance directives do not apply to severe dementia alone. Adding a dementia provision ensures that families and physicians have a healthcare guide for the estimated half a million people who will die this year from Alzheimer’s.”

To prompt discussion of advance care planning, Compassion & Choices invites people to share bold graphics and the taglines “Ask me” and “Tell me” from our Facebook page (facebook.com/CompassionandChoices).

In addition, Compassion & Choices, in collaboration with 18 leading aging and healthcare organizations, is conducting “The Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment” to encourage healthcare providers and institutions to honor patients’ wishes.

Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill Clears Senate Judiciary Committee in California

Second Hearing on Bill Inspired by Brittany Maynard Draws Hundreds of Supporters

(Sacramento, CA – April 7, 2015) Compassion & Choices today applauded the California Senate Judiciary Committee for approving the End of Life Option Act (SB 128). This is the second legislative victory for the bill, which would allow terminally ill Californians the option to request a prescription from their doctor to painlessly and peacefully shorten their dying process.

The passage of the California bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee comes just two weeks after the Senate Health Committee approved SB 128 by a 6-2 vote. The next vote on the bill will take place before the Senate Appropriations Committee prior to consideration by the full Senate.

“This is another historic accomplishment and a huge step for people who are dying from terminal illnesses in the Golden State,” said Toni Broaddus, California campaign director for Compassion & Choices. “It shows that legislators are hearing the voices of terminally ill Californians who are desperately needing options at the end of life.” More

Senate Committee Rejects Bill to Imprison Doctors Who Practice Aid in Dying

Compassion & Choices Praises Committee for Preserving End-of-Life Freedoms

(Helena, Mont. – March 31, 2015) Compassion & Choices praised the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee for rejecting a bill to criminalize and imprison doctors who write prescriptions for aid-in-dying medication for terminally ill adults who wants the option to end their suffering.

The bill, which opponents call “The Physician Imprisonment Act” because it would imprison a physician for up to 10 years for this medical practice, was one of several in recent years intended to gut the state Supreme Court’s 2009 ruling in Baxter v. Montana.

A bipartisan group of legislators voted 7-5 to table HB477. Earlier this month, the House voted 51-48 to pass the bill on the third and final reading after reversing course several times.

“This is the third session in a row that we have fought these frivolous bills,” said Emily Bentley, Compassion & Choices Montana Campaign Manager. “Physicians across Montana have prescribed aid-in-dying medication for five years without incident. It’s time for opponents of freedom to move on.”

A 2013 poll showed 69% of Montana voters support authorizing physicians to write prescriptions for aid-in-dying medication.

In 2009, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in Baxter v. Montana that state law authorizes physicians to prescribe aid-in-dying medication to a terminally ill adult who requests it. The Court said: “The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act clearly provides that terminally ill patients are entitled to autonomous end-of-life decisions.” The court required four safeguards: The patient must be 1) terminally ill, 2) mentally competent, 3) over 18 years old and 4) must self-administer the medication. The court did not rule one way or the other on constitutional grounds.