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

Press Releases

Latino Labor Leader Dolores Huerta Endorses Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill

Civil Rights Activist Urges Latino Legislators to Vote for Bill 

(Sacramento, CA – June 25, 2015) Latino labor leader and civil right activist Dolores Huerta today publicly endorsed the End of Life Option Act (SB 128) and encouraged Latino legislators to vote for it. Her endorsement is critical because she is a leader in the labor, civil rights, and Latino communities.  Several Latino legislators serve on the Assembly Health Committee, which is scheduled to vote on the bill July 7th.

“We are honored to have the support of Dolores Huerta because her endorsement carries great weight across California and especially in the Latino community,” said Toni Broaddus, California Campaign Director for Compassion & Choices. “We hope her leadership will help convince legislators who are on the fence about the importance of the legislation prior to the vote in the Assembly Health Committee.”

Huerta’s endorsement follows Tuesday’s release of a bipartisan poll conducted by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research andProbolsky Research showing 70 percent of Latino voters and 60 percent of Catholic voters support the End of Life Option Act.

Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers with César Chávez. She now joins other prominent Latinos who have publicly endorsed the End of Life Option Act. They include actor/director and activist Edward James Olmos and star Mauricio Ochmann from the popular Telemundo telenovela “El Señor de los Cielos.”

“I came to Sacramento to urge members of the Assembly to support SB 128, the End of Life Option Act,” said Huerta. “This bill will affirm a fundamental right for terminally ill and mentally competent patients to choose how their final days are lived. This is a basic civil rights issue offering a compassionate and dignified end-of-life choice that should be left between a patient and doctor.”

Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning and Senate Majority Whip Lois Wolk, SB 128 was inspired by California death-with-dignity advocate Brittany Maynard. The bill is closely modeled after the death-with-dignity law in Oregon, which has worked well for 17 years, without a single documented case of abuse or coercion.

“We are honored that Dolores Huerta, civil rights leader, champion for working families, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is working in support of SB 128, the End of Life Option Act,” said Senator Monning. “As Dolores has stated, this is a fundamental human rights issue and a choice that should be afforded to every qualified, terminally ill patient in California.”

Four other states authorize the option of medical aid in dying: Washington, Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico. Legislators have introduced medical aid-in-dying bills in the District of Columbia and at least 23 other states besides California.

“Doc2Doc” Consultation Service to Combat Unwanted Medical Treatment Crisis

Free Service Helps Physicians Provide End-of-Life Care Patients Want 

(Washington, DC – June 15, 2015) Responding to reports that millions of older Americans receive unwanted medical treatment, Compassion & Choices today launched a new, free “Doc2Doc” consultation service to ensure patients receive the end-of-life care they want.

According to a 2014 poll conducted by Purple Insights, nearly one out of four Americans (24%) aged 50 or older ­— the equivalent of about 25 million people — say that either they or a family member have experienced excessive or unwanted medical treatment.

Better and more frequent doctor-patient communication could help prevent this excessive and unwanted medical treatment, according to a 2014 report by the Institute of Medicine, Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life.

To improve doctor-patient communication, Doc2Doc is specifically tailored to offer practicing physicians a free, confidential and readily available telephone consultation from a seasoned medical director with decades of experience in end-of-life medical care.

“As physicians, I think we all secretly wish we could solve all of our patients’ healthcare crises by ourselves,” said Dr. David Grube, a national medical director for Compassion & Choices and a former chairperson of the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners. “But I believe we all recognize that it is our duty to consider any tools that minimize our patients’ suffering, especially at the end of life when curative treatments are no longer a viable option.”

Doc2Doc is based on the premise that a physician’s informed communication with each patient about the full range of end-of-life options should center on the healthcare goals of the patient, not the doctor. This communication is necessary to weigh the benefits and burdens of various treatment options to align them with the patient’s values and priorities. Ideally, these conversations often are uncomfortable, but are critically important, and should begin soon after a diagnosis of terminal illness and continue throughout the progression of it.

“Doc2Doc may not be the answer for every physician or situation,” said Dr. Grube. “But I think it is a resource worth exploring for physicians who care for dying patients and want guidance about how they can best support their patients’ decisions.”

The Doc2Doc consultation may include answers about these end-of-life care options:

  • Hospice, palliative care and effective pain and symptom management.
  • How to follow current clinical practice guidelines.
  • How specific state laws affect end-of-life care.
  • How to communicate with patients, pharmacists and family members.
  • What to expect in a patient-controlled death.
  • How to handle patients’ inquiries or requests concerning withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment.
  • How to handle a badly suffering, terminally ill patient’s request for assistance in achieving a painless, peaceful death.
  • Voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED), including appropriate supportive care, to help a badly suffering patient to achieve a peaceful death. VSED is authorized nationwide.
  • Medical aid in dying: a medical practice that offers terminally ill, mentally competent adults the option to request a prescription for medication that they can ingest to shorten their dying process. Medical aid in dying currently is authorized in five states, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico, but legislators in the District of Columbia and at least 24 other states have introduced medical aid-in-dying bills.

Physicians who want to utilize the Doc2Doc service can call the Compassion & Choices toll-free number: 800.247.7421, email: [email protected], or visit the Compassion & Choices website at: www.compassionandchoices.org/what-we-do/doctors-to-doctors.

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.

 

California Senate Passes First Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill in CA History

Supporters Optimistic Assembly Will Pass Bill by Sept. 11 Deadline

(Sacramento, CA – June 4, 2015) Compassion & Choices praised the California Senate today for passing a medical aid-in-dying bill for the first time in history, two weeks after the California Medical Association dropped its 28-year opposition to such legislation. The vote to approve the bill, the End of Life Option Act (SB 128), was 23 to 14. The bill now moves to the Assembly, where the deadline to pass the bill is Sept. 11.

SB 128 would allow mentally competent, terminally ill adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication that they could take to painlessly and peacefully shorten their dying process.

“This is a historic moment in our state for terminally ill Californians facing unbearable suffering who need and want more end-of-life options,” said Compassion & Choices California Campaign Director Toni Broaddus. “We are thrilled with the Senate vote and optimistic that the Assembly will respond to the voices of dying Californians by passing this legislation before its Sept. 11 deadline.”

The Senate floor vote comes seven months after the death of Brittany Maynard. The 29-year-old Californian with terminal brain cancer brought international attention to this issue when she had to move to Oregon to utilize its death-with-dignity law last year. In the final weeks of her life, Maynard partnered with Compassion & Choices to launch a campaign to make aid in dying an open and accessible medical option.

“Brittany would be very proud to see the monumental shift occurring on the End of Life Option legislation,” said Dan Diaz, her widower. “Brittany and I respect those who might not pursue this option if they found themselves in a situation similar to hers. However, no one should stand in the way of someone who is suffering from a terminal illness from making the decisions that are best for them. An End of Life Option law will not result in more people dying; it will result in fewer people suffering.” More

“Doctors for Dignity” Ad Campaign Launched on Eve of AMA Convention

Compassion & Choices Cites New Calif. Med. Assoc. Policy, Growing Support for Death with Dignity

(Chicago, IL – June 3, 2015) On the eve of the American Medical Association’s annual convention starting Saturday, Compassion & Choices officially launched its “Doctors for Dignity” ad campaign to recruit physicians who support providing terminally ill adults with the full range of end-of-life medical options.

These options include death with dignity via the medical practice of aid in dying. It provides mentally competent, terminally ill adults with the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication that they can take to shorten their dying process if their suffering becomes unbearable.

Medical aid in dying currently is authorized in five states: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico. In addition, legislators in the District of Columbia, California and at least 23 other states introduced bills this year to authorize this end-of-life option.

The Doctors for Dignity advertising and grassroots recruitment campaign launch follows the announcement two weeks ago by the California Medical Association (CMA) that it is dropping its 28-year opposition to medical aid in dying. Since the CMA’s opposition doomed previous medical aid-in-dying bills in California, its new ‘neutral’ stance could result in the California Senate passing the End of Life Option Act before its legislative action deadline this Friday. More

Calif. Medical Assoc. Praised for Dropping 28-Year Opposition to Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill

C&C President Barbara Coombs Lee

By Sean Crowley

Compassion & Choices today praised the California Medical Association for dropping its decades-long opposition to legislation that would protect physicians from criminal prosecution for providing terminally ill adults with the option of medical aid in dying.

CMA’s announcement states that it is “the first state medical association in the nation to change its position on the long-debated issue of physician aid in dying” by taking a ‘neutral’ position on the End of Life Option Act (SB 128). It also marks the first time CMA has not opposed such legislation since 1987.

The CMA’s president said: “it’s up to the patient and their physician to choose the course of treatment best suited for the situation – and CMA’s new position on physician aid in dying allows for that.” The timing of this announcement is important because the deadline for the Senate to pass the End of Life Option Act is June 5, only two weeks away. If the Senate passes the bill, the deadline in the Assembly to pass it is Sept. 11.

Brittany Maynard and husband, Dan Diaz

“The California Medical Association’s new ‘neutral’ position on medical aid in dying is a major milestone because its prior opposition to this legitimate medical practice doomed previous bills,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an ER and ICU nurse for 25 years before she became an attorney and coauthored the Oregon Death with Dignity Act that is the model for SB 128. “We are seeing an enormous shift among medical organizations that is more reflective of the opinion of practicing physicians. This shift helps advance medical aid-in-dying legislation in California and throughout the nation.”

“With deep appreciation, I thank the California Medical Association for showing its leadership and wisdom in adopting its neutral policy stance,” said Dan Diaz, Brittany Maynard’s husband.  “It supports Brittany’s position: ‘This decision is mine to make, mine alone.”

Debbie Ziegler and her daughter, Brittany

“After months of research and collaboration, the California Medical Association has chosen to adopt a forward thinking, medically sound policy that will further the ability of California doctors  to properly treat terminally ill patients. Today, I strongly feel my daughter, Brittany Maynard, smiling down on her beloved home state, and I am confident that California legislators will take note of this important message from the CMA as they move forward in their efforts to pass Senate Bill 128, the California End of Life Option Act. Thank you to the CMA from the bottom of my mother’s heart,” said Deborah Ziegler, Brittany’s Maynard’s mother.

“As I’m now in bed nauseous and in pain from chemo, the CMA’s new position warmed my heart and was the highlight of my day,” said terminally ill Christy O’Donnell, the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit Compassion & Choices filed on her behalf last week asserting that the California state constitution and existing state law allow medical aid in dying. “I was proud that my fellow Californians in the CMA chose to issue an opinion that now accurately reflects the medical needs and desires of the people of this state.”

Christy O’Donnell and daughter, Bailey

American physicians believe by a 23 percent margin (54% vs. 31%) that patients with an “incurable and terminal” disease should have the option of medical aid in dying, according to a 2014 Medscape survey of 17,000 U.S. doctors representing 28 medical specialties. The previous Medscape survey in 2010 showed physicians supported medical aid in dying by only a five percent margin (46% vs. 41%).

A significant number of individual doctors and medical groups support medical aid in dying, including the American Nurses Association/California, American Public Health Association, American College of Legal Medicine, American Women’s Medical Association, Gay & Lesbian Medical Association, and American Medical Student Association.

Read the CMA press release by clicking here.