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

Press Releases

Brittany Maynard’s 30th Birthday Spurs National Call to Action for Death With Dignity

New “Call to Action” Video Narrated by Brittany Released

(Portland, OR – Nov. 19, 2014)  Compassion & Choices today launched a national initiative for expanded access to death with dignity on what would be Brittany Maynard’s 30th birthday. The organization released a new “call to action” video narrated by Brittany and featuring death-with-dignity activists from across the nation, including Anita Freeman of California, Sara Meyers of Connecticut and Dustin Hankinson of Montana. Brittany calls on all those touched by her story to contact their state lawmakers using an easy action tool at www.TheBrittanyFund.org, where the video will debut at 3pm ET.

Response to Brittany’s story, including from policymakers, proves the time is now to fix the nation’s unjust end-of-life healthcare system. The New Jersey Assembly passed an aid-in-dying bill last Thursday, 12 days after her death. At least one lawmaker who decided to support the bill cited Brittany’s story during the floor debate as a deciding factor: Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon.  In her honor, legislators in California and at least 11 other states have pledged to introduce bills that authorize death with dignity. The other states include: Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-WY), who plans to introduce a death-with-dignity bill, and Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-PA), who introduced a death-with-dignity bill on Oct. 15 — nine days after Brittany’s story broke — are among the lawmakers whom Brittany inspired. Rep. Rozzi’s father died of brain cancer, as Brittany did.

“As we mark what would be her 30th birthday, we recall Brittany’s selfless efforts to help ensure that other dying Americans get access to the death-with-dignity choice,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, Compassion & Choices president and an attorney who co-authored Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, which Brittany Maynard utilized. “Brittany carried a torch of human freedom this far. We must carry it to the finish line. We ask supporters to use every communication channel to tell their lawmakers to support death with dignity.”

“I hope for the sake of other American citizens all these people that I’m speaking to that I’ve never met, that I’ll never meet, that this choice be extended to you, that this right.  That we mobilize, that we vocalize, that we start to talk about it,” says Brittany in the video, which was recorded Aug. 2.

“I know my family will continue to carry this torch along for me, that they all believe in the importance of what I’m doing,” concluded Brittany in the video. “If there’s one message to come away from everything that I’ve been through, it is no matter what life kind of presents you with, is never be afraid to use your own voice. And even if you are uncertain, even if your voice is shaking, ask the questions you want to ask, speak up for yourself, advocate.”

A panel of experts, including Reps. Rozzi and Zwonitzer, discussed nationwide momentum to expand access for terminally ill adults to the medical practice of aid in dying during a national press conference call on Nov. 19.

Death with Dignity Option Wins in Watershed Assembly Vote

Aid in Dying Law Now More Likely for People of New Jersey

November 13, 2014 (Trenton, NJ) – In a move that brings the people of New Jersey one step closer to having the medical option of aid in dying, the New Jersey State Assembly voted 41-31 in a bipartisan fashion to pass the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (A2270).

“Today’s vote reflects our first victory in the memory and spirit of Brittany Maynard,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, President of Compassion & Choices, which advocated for the bill. “Brittany called on our nation to reform laws so others won’t have to move to a Dignity state for comfort and control in their dying. We’re honored to carry on in her name.”

The Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act would allow a mentally competent, terminally ill adult the choice to request a prescription for life-ending medication that the patient could take – if and when they choose – in order to reduce suffering at life’s end.

The Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act was re-introduced in February 2014 by Assembly Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli, whose own sister-in-law, Claudia Burzichelli, succumbed to lung cancer in 2013.   Prior to her death, she testified about her expected suffering, “…I would hope I might have more options than starving myself or taking my life in a violent way. I don’t know how I will truly feel if and when that time may come. But it comforts me there could be another way, other options. More

Brittany Maynard Urges Palliative Care Specialist to Stop Misrepresenting Her Case

Says She Chose Death-with-Dignity Option After Thorough Research, Then Contacted Compassion & Choices 

(Portland, OR – Oct. 23, 2014) Brittany Maynard urged a palliative care specialist, Dr. Ira Byock, whom she never has met, to stop misrepresenting her case prior to his debate with Compassion & Choices Pres. Barbara Coombs Lee on today’s Diane Rehm Show.

In comments Brittany posted on the website for Rehm’s nationally-syndicated NPR show, she denied claims by Byock and other opponents of death with dignity that Compassion & Choices is using her to advance the aid-in-dying movement. Rehm read part of Brittany’s comments during her show’s 11am-12pm ET segment. Here is link to the segment’s audio: http://bit.ly/DRshowaudio. Here is the link to all of Brittany’s comments: http://bit.ly/DRshowBrittMaynard. They also are cut and pasted below.

“I am Brittany Maynard and it concerns me that Dr. Ira Byock will speak on my ‘behalf’ at all again. I watched a special on PBS where this same individual spoke about my case as though he knew personal details about me, saying some things that were quite frankly not true.


25 Million Older Americans Have Experienced Unwanted or Excessive Medical Treatment, Survey Suggests

Poll Reveals Strong Support for Taking Action to Prevent Such Medical Treatment

(Washington, D.C. – July 29, 2014) A new poll shows that nearly one out of four older Americans (24%) say that either they or a family member have experienced excessive or unwanted medical treatment, the equivalent of about 25 million people. The survey also reveals that older Americans strongly support holding doctors accountable when they fail to honor patients’ end-of-life healthcare wishes. See the full poll here.

“Twenty-five million Americans receiving excessive or unwanted medical treatment is 25 million Americans too many. This survey demonstrates that older Americans clearly trust their doctors, but they also expect them to honor their end-of-life medical wishes,” said Daniel Wilson, national and federal programs director for Compassion & Choices, the nation’s leading end-of-life advocacy organization, which sponsored the poll. More

Maryland Gubernatorial Candidates Urged to Pledge to Pass Death-With-Dignity Law

Two Candidates Already Have Made Pledge

(Annapolis, Md. – May 6, 2014) The nation’s leading end-of-life choice organization, Compassion & Choices, challenged Maryland’s gubernatorial candidates to pledge to pass death-with-dignity legislation if they are elected because most voters support such laws.

On April 15, Del. Heather Mizeur became the first Maryland gubernatorial candidate to publically pledge to pass death-with-dignity legislation if she is elected governor. On April 24, the leading gubernatorial candidate in the polls, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, reportedly said he supported a death-with-dignity bill as a delegate and would support such legislation as governor.

The pledge challenge is timely because it was issued one day before the first statewide broadcast of a gubernatorial debate on Maryland Public Television and NBC affiliates in Washington, D.C., and Hagerstown, Md., on Wed. May 7, 7pm-8pm ET, and streamlined live on www.nbcwashington.com.

“Death with dignity is a winning issue everywhere it’s polled. It garners majority support among voters across the political spectrum in blue states like Vermont and in purple states like Montana,” said Mickey MacIntyre, chief program officer for Compassion & Choices. “Voters support death with dignity because it ensures that the government will not interfere in very intimate, personal family decisions about end-of-life care.” More