End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Aid-in-Dying Legislation Advancing Around the Countryby Sonja

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by Compassion & Choices staff
February 7, 2013

Bills Clear Committee in New Jersey and Vermont

With Compassion & Choices’ staff deploying across the country, working in tandem with our top-flight state-based campaign teams, aid in dying has taken off in state legislatures. Thanks to our sound strategy, the dedication of our allies and the commitment of supporters like you, there were positive developments in four out of the ten states where we are actively engaged.

The New Jersey Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee approved an Oregon-style aid-in-dying bill on Thursday by a 7-2 vote with two abstentions. Before the vote, committee members heard moving testimony on the measure, which brought several to tears. Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee and a doctor representing the state psychological association were among experts supporting the bill. The urgency of the need for aid in dying was brought forward by a terminally ill Catholic woman whose father shot himself to death after a prolonged illness; she wants the option to use aid in dying. Director of Government Affairs Theresa Connor and other legislative staff are meeting with bill sponsors, committee members and allied organizations to ensure the bill advances.

In Vermont, an end-of-life choice measure recently cleared the Vermont Senate Health and Welfare Committee with a 5-0 unanimous vote. For four days, the committee heard testimony from a range of citizens, experts, medical professionals and leading lawmakers from Vermont and Oregon, where a similar bill was enacted in 1998. Compassion & Choices is supporting Patient Choices Vermont to promote this bill, which is now before the Judiciary Committee, where Compassion & Choices Legal Affairs Director Kathryn Tucker testified on Wednesday. Tucker was quoted on the front page of Thursday’s Burlington Free Press in support of the bill.    

On Tuesday, Compassion & Choices convened a press conference in support of an aid-in-dying bill in Connecticut. State legislators, physicians, clergy members, healthcare professionals and Barbara Coombs Lee offered supportive testimony. The conference drew huge attention from the press corps and generated statewide news coverage. Lawmakers expect the legislature’s first public hearing on the bill to be held later this month. “The deep yearning for increasing autonomy for patients themselves to have a voice now is reaching a tipping point across the world,” Coombs Lee told The Connecticut Mirror.

The Compassionate Care for the Terminally Ill Act (House Draft 1183) will be introduced in Massachusetts; bill sponsors already have 20 co-sponsors in the first two weeks – nearly triple the support we’ve had in the past. Our tireless organizers convened two meetings for Massachusetts advocates the first weekend in February, where Compassion & Choices Chief Program Officer Mickey MacIntyre strategized with supporters on translating momentum from last year’s initiative battle to winning legislative effort.

Our efforts to establish and defend aid in dying in Hawaii, Montana and New Mexico are ongoing, and our supporters are mobilizing. Additionally, legislation has been introduced in New York, Arizona, Kansas and New Hampshire.

Not only is our vision of the right to end-of-life choice for all Americans gaining unprecedented momentum, our number of supporters grows every day. We are excited and inspired by such progress, and we are grateful for your help in bringing our movement to these increasingly high points. It’s clear we are on the move, but we need you, your family and friends to get involved. Please sign the petition at CompassionAndChoices.org. If you live in a campaign state, please visit your state page on our Web site to join the fight.