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

Powerful Coalition Forms to Advance the Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatmentby Sonja


Compassion & Choices has united with 15 major healthcare and aging organizations in a powerful new coalition to ensure patients’ end-of-life wishes are honored. The coalition collaborators are advancing The Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment, which builds on Compassion & Choices’ years of work in this area.

The campaign seeks to focus healthcare policymakers on establishing provisions to ensure that medical professionals determine and enforce patients’ end-of-life treatment directives.

“The assembly of these respected organizations around the problem of unwanted medical treatment is a major step forward to build consumer confidence surrounding the healthcare they receive throughout serious illnesses or at the end of life,” said Ashley Carson Cottingham, director of policy and advocacy at Compassion & Choices.

Dr. Bud Hammes from Gundersen Health of LaCrosse, WI, led the first in a series of Washington, D.C., policy luncheons. He showcased Respecting Choices, a program in which an amazing 96% of patients have stated their advance care plans and medical staff adhere to the plans 98% of the time. The program’s centerpiece is an effort to listen to patients discuss their values, preferences and goals, and then align the patient’s medical treatment plan with those criteria. Respecting Choices employs a medical protocol for advance care planning that includes a quality-improvement process and accountability for medical staff – the same approach applied to other standard medical care.

“Why is an error in delivering an antibiotic worse than an error on end-of-life treatment?” Dr. Hammes proposed.

While introducing Dr. Hammes, National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) president Larry Atkins noted the importance of the coalition’s work. The coalition will “advance the understanding of what can be done to ensure people who are dealing with serious or terminal medical conditions are able to get the care they want and need – and no more.”

Experts from NASI will produce a briefing paper for each of the six luncheon topics. The first, Getting the Treatment You Want: Is Anyone Listening?, was published in December. The brief lays out the problem facing patients very clearly, “The health care system is not well organized to provide consistent, reliable support to older adults who know and are able to express how they want to approach the end of their lives.” But it concludes on a hopeful note that, “The time may now be ripe for a consumer-driven movement to shift physician behavior and health care system action.”

Visit www.endumt.org to learn more about the campaign – and sign up to take action – and to watch Dr. Hammes’ presentation on Respecting Choices.

The Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment coalition collaborators are:

ABA Commission on Law and Aging

Center for Medicare Advocacy

Compassion & Choices

Consumer Coalition for Quality Health Care

Elder Justice Coalition

Medicare Rights Center

National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys

National Academy of Social Insurance

National Alliance for Caregiving

National Association of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs

National Caucus and Center on Black Aged

National Hispanic Council on Aging

OWL – The Voice of Midlife and Older Women

The Gerontological Society of America

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care