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Archive: Jul 2014

  1. Compassion & Choices Poll Shows Need for Legislative Reform of End-of-Life Care

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    By Sean Crowley

    “We cannot put the entire burden on consumers, especially on seniors, to protect themselves from unwanted care during a medical crisis. We need carrot-and-stick policies that encourage medical providers to learn their patients’ end-of-life healthcare wishes, and to honor them.”

    That is the quote by Compassion & Choices Chief Program Officer Mickey MacIntyre in a story by Becker’s Hospital Review about a poll on unwanted medical treatment conducted by the research division of Purple Strategies, one of the top five most accurate polling firms in the 2012 election.

    Sponsored by Compassion & Choices, the poll shows that nearly one out of four older Americans say that either they or a family member have experienced excessive or unwanted medical treatment, the equivalent of about 25 million people.

    Becker’s Hospital Review reported the following five findings from the poll:

    •    Sixty-one percent of those polled support reimbursing doctors for end-of-life consultations.
    •    Nearly 65 percent support withholding payment to healthcare providers who fail to honor their end-of-life medical wishes.
    •    Around 66 percent say they would “take political action to protect patients’ rights to their own choice in end-of-life care.”
    •    Forty-one percent say they would “take legal action” and 40 percent say they would “not pay for the treatment” in response to unwanted medical treatment.
    •    Forty-seven percent are very confident that emergency rooms and intensive care units would honor those wishes.

    The Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990 authorizes Medicare and Medicaid to deny payment to healthcare providers who fail to inform patients of their rights around end-of-life choices.

    But Congress can do more to strengthen protections for end-of-life autonomy.

    It could start by passing the “Personalize Your Care Act of 2013,” which would provide Medicare and Medicaid coverage for voluntary consultations between patients and their doctors about advance care planning.

    You can read the complete poll results here.

  2. 25 Million Older Americans Have Experienced Unwanted or Excessive Medical Treatment, Survey Suggests

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    (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 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…)

  3. Missoulian Publishes Op-Ed by C&C Advocates With Disabilities to Honor ADA Anniversary

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    By Sean Crowley

    “Like others, we want the freedom to enjoy life. This freedom should include the full range of options at the end of life, including hospice, palliative care and aid in dying.”

    Those are the opening words of an op-ed published today in the Missoulian [Montana] newspaper authored by two Compassion & Choices volunteer advocates to commemorate tomorrow’s 24th anniversary of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act.

    The authors — Dustin Hankinson from Missoula, Montana, and Sara Myers, who lives in New York City and Connecticut — wrote about why they join famed physicist, best-selling author and U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Stephen Hawking in supporting death with dignity: because it ensures autonomy and expanded options at the end of life, just as the ADA does throughout life.

    They cite a report published in the Journal of Medical Ethics about the Oregon Death With Dignity Act. It concluded: “Rates of assisted dying in Oregon showed no evidence of heightened risk for … the physically disabled or chronically ill.”

    Recent data shows a strong majority of voters living with disabilities support death with dignity in states where it has been polled: Connecticut (65 percent), Massachusetts (74 percent) and New Jersey (63 percent); support levels nearly identical to all voters in these three states (Connecticut: 66 percent, Massachusetts: 71 percent, New Jersey: 62 percent).

    The op-ed concludes:

    “‘If you have a terminal illness, and are in great pain, I think you should have the right to end your life … It is discrimination against the disabled to deny them the right… that able-bodied people have … We should not take away the freedom of the individual to choose to die. I believe one should have control of one’s life, including its ending.’”

    You can read the complete op-ed by clicking here.

  4. A Letter From Disabilities Advocate Dustin Hankinson on the Anniversary of the ADA

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    Hello Friends,

    I’m a Montanan living with a disability. And I strongly support end-of-life choice. To me, the right to die with dignity is as important as the right to live with dignity.

    That’s why I agreed to be interviewed by Compassion & Choices for this video. It’s just three-and-a half minutes long, yet speaks volumes about respecting the rights of people with disabilities to make our own end-of-life decisions, just as other Americans can do in five states and counting.

    At three-years-old, I was diagnosed with a genetic disease called Duchenne muscular dystrophy. In 2004 my diaphragm became too weak for me to breathe on my own and I began using a ventilator. At some point in the years ahead, my cardiac (heart) muscles will become too weak to support my body. When that happens, I believe I should be the one who decides my ultimate fate.

    That’s why I will celebrate the upcoming anniversary of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and will do so as a fervent supporter of Compassion & Choices. So should you!

    This Tuesday, July 26, marks 26 years since this landmark law guaranteed me and every American with a disability the right to live autonomously and independently.

    Its impact is a lot bigger than the wheelchair ramps that now make it so easy for me and others to maneuver on streets and board buses. It integrates us into the fabric of life and living that most people can take for granted. 

    Just as the ADA preserves our dignity, so do laws that guarantee end-of-life choice in New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and my beloved home state of Montana. (more…)

  5. Mexican-American Leader Joins Nation’s Leading End-of-Life Choice Organization

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    (Los Angeles, Calif. – July 23, 2014) Rev. Dr. Ignacio Castuera, a Mexican-American civil and human rights leader, has joined the board of directors and Southern California advisory board for the nation’s leading end-of-life choice organization, Compassion & Choices.

    A resident of Claremont, California, Rev. Castuera already has been interviewed by the Hispanic network TV Azteca about the recent launch of Compassion & Choices’ California campaign to allow death with dignity for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in The Golden State. The story will air in a few weeks.

    A dedicated activist, Rev. Castuera has championed numerous causes that have grown quickly into wider acceptance. He was the national chaplain for Planned Parenthood for six years, married gay couples on national and international television, and has been a strong voice in the movement to legalize the medical practice of aid in dying for terminally ill adults. Five states currently allow it: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico. (more…)

  6. People With Disabilities Have Right to Death With Dignity, Esteemed Physicist With ALS Declares

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    (Washington, DC – July 16, 2014) A coauthor of Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act welcomed English physicist Stephen Hawking’s announcement on BBC-TV today that he supports a British Assisted-Dying bill modeled after Oregon’s first-in the-nation aid-in-dying law.

    Hawking has a motor neuron disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is almost entirely paralyzed and communicates through a speech-generating device.

    “The world listens when an international thought leader of Stephen Hawking’s stature advocates for end-of-life choice,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney who was an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years. “He withheld open support of death with dignity until last year. This change is an important development for the end-of-life choice movement.”

    A U.S Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, Hawking authored a book, A Brief History of Time, that stayed on the British Sunday Times best-sellers list for a record-breaking 237 weeks.

    When asked, why he supports the Assisted-Dying bill, Hawking told BBC-TV:

    “If you have a terminal illness, and are in great pain, I think you should have the right to end your life …

    “It is discrimination against the disabled to deny them the right…that able bodied people have …

    “We should not take away the freedom of the individual to choose to die …

    “I believe one should have control of one’s life, including its ending.” (more…)

  7. YouTube Video by End-of-Life Choice Group Honors Anniversary of Americans for Disabilities Act

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    Compassion & Choices is commemorating this week’s 24th anniversary of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act on Saturday, July 26,by releasing a video today saluting our volunteers living with disabilities. The video is available for viewing on Compassion & Choices’ website, http://bit.ly/CandCCelebratesADA, and Compassion & Choices’ YouTube channel: http://bit.ly/ADACelebration.

    “Compassion & Choices shares the goal of Americans with Disabilities Act of increasing autonomy and expanding options for all people,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney who was an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years. “We honor this historic law by saluting our Compassion & Choices volunteers living with disabilities. They are among our strongest advocates for autonomy and expanded choice at the end of life for all people.”

    The video features interviews with two Compassion & Choices volunteers who support the end-of-life choice of death with dignity.

    1)     Dustin Hankinson who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and lives in Missoula, Montana. He has worked tirelessly to preserve access to death with dignity in Montana, one of five states that allow mentally competent, terminally ill adults the choice to access aid in dying.

    2)     ALS patient Sara Myers, who lives in New York City and Kent, Connecticut. She has diligently advocated for passage of aid-in-dying legislation in the nutmeg state. (more…)

  8. Celebrating the 24th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

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    Compassion & Choices celebrates the 24th anniversary of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, because we share its goal of increased autonomy and expanded options for all people.

    Sign the petition if you believe that all adults should be free to make their own end-of-life decisions, regardless of whether they live with disabilities.

    Recent polls in the Northeast show a strong majority of voters living with disabilities support death with dignity in each state polled: Connecticut (65%), Massachusetts (74%) and New Jersey (63%).

    Compassion & Choices believes end-of-life choice is a basic civil and human right. We are dedicated to ensuring adults secure this right in every state, not just a select few states where it currently exists (Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico).

    Sign the petition today to stand with Compassion & Choices in celebrating the success of the ADA and continuing to defend the autonomy of all Americans.

    Click here to sign the petition.

  9. The Assisted Dying Bill clears its first hurdle in an historic debate in the House of Lords

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    Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill had its Second Reading today, which resulted in 9 hours 43 minutes of debate. There were 126 speakers, a record for a debate in the House of Lords, and 64 spoke in support of the Bill, 3 were neutral and 59 spoke against. The last time a Bill of this kind was debated, in 2006, it fell at Second Reading due to a ‘wrecking’ amendment tabled by Peers opposed to a change in the law. Read more here…

  10. The Moral Imperative in End-of-Life Choice Looks Different Now

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    by Barbara Coombs Lee

    For those of us grounded in end-of-life care and choice, the earth shook this week. Did you feel it? The shaking hasn’t stopped, but the religious foundation from which aid-in-dying opponents build their strength cracked.

    Tomorrow, Britain’s House of Lords will debate a bill to authorize assisted dying as a legitimate medical practice. Last week former archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey, recanted his position of opposition and declared his full support. A few days later Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, perhaps the most visible symbol of moral authority in the world, voiced his own strong support for choice in dying.

    The bill in Parliament is modeled on Oregon’s 20-year-old law, the Death With Dignity Act. A group of about 10 Oregonians worked for months preparing that document for the 1994 Oregon ballot. As one of those co-authors, I say in all humility that I am bursting with pride to see it put to use in Britain. Like Oregon’s law, the bill would allow a terminally ill, mentally competent adult to request life-ending medication to ensure a peaceful death. They can keep it on hand in case suffering in their dying process becomes unbearable, and they may self-administer it at a time of their own choosing.  (more…)