End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Making Our Mark Nationwideby Sonja

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by Compassion & Choices staff
March 7, 2013

Compassion & Choices’ dedicated campaigners and advocates are advancing aid-in-dying legislation in states across the country. The 2013 state legislative sessions have been some of the most active and productive on end-of-life issues, and they are gaining notice from the national media. The campaigns prove to legislators the overwhelming support for end-of-life choice and recruit new supporters to the movement to expand the full range of end-of-life options for all Americans.

Compassion & Choices’ legal advocacy successfully clarified that aid in dying is a legal medical practice in Montana through the 2009 Baxter decision. Ever since, opponents have been trying to roll back this right. This session opponents are trying, but Compassion & Choices Montana is meeting them head-on. In fact, the Montana House passed an abhorrent bill that would imprison doctors for up to ten years for providing aid in dying.  Compassion & Choices advocates generated bi-partisan opposition to the bill in the House and are leading efforts to stop the bill in the Senate and if necessary secure a veto from the governor. Citizens and doctors have spoken out: an op-ed by seven Montana physicians denouncing the bill ran in papers across the state on February 27. Advocates are working round-the-clock to defeat what is in essence “The Physician Imprisonment Act of 2013.”

A bill that would bring more end-of-life choice to Vermont passed the Senate on a 22 – 8 vote and was referred to the House Committee on Human Services on February 19. Compassion & Choices will provide ongoing support to our friends at Patient Choices Vermont for a wide-reaching publicity campaign to move this bill to the governor, who has pledged to sign it.

Our Connecticut team continues to keep the state’s aid-in-dying bill alive. After last month’s effective press conference, attended by six legislators and Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, we expect a public hearing before the Public Health Committee possibly as soon as this month. We need a strong presence of local advocates at the Capitol that day. If you’re in the area and can join this effort, Contact Connecticut Campaign Manager Tim Appleton at tappleton@compassionandchoices.org.

New Mexico legislators passed, memorials declaring March 1, 2013, “Health Care Advance Directive Day” in both the House and Senate. Nearly 50 Compassion & Choices volunteers lobbied in Santa Fe to achieve this noble recognition. Compassion & Choices New Mexico runs a creative campaign to identify, educate and mobilize new supporters enthused about advancing end-of-life choice.

Following February’s successful vote on an aid-in-dying bill in the New Jersey Assembly’s Health and Senior Services Committee, Compassion and Choices is developing a comprehensive outreach strategy to move the legislation forward. Assemblyman John Burzichelli, sponsor of the aid-in-dying bill, continues to be a great ally and wrote a powerful op-ed in support of end-of-life choice, which appeared in the South Jersey Times on February 20. To complement the legislative outreach, advocates met with staff in the New Jersey Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, where planning for a pilot program on end-of-life conversations is underway.

Our work to expand end-of-life choice continues in Massachusetts and Hawaii. While truly pleased with the progress we have made, we can’t let the influence of our opposition outpace our efforts. That means we need help from supporters like you more than ever. There are so many ways to contribute your time, energy, voice or resources to keep this movement vibrant. Please visit your state page on our Web site to find out how you can get involved right now!