Compassion & Choices today launched bilingual videos featuring Mexican actor Mauricio Ochmann and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta urging Latinos in California to join them in defending the suspended End of Life Option Act they fought so hard to pass. Ten days ago on May 24, a California judge issued a judgment invalidating the law, so it is not in effect pending further review by the courts.
Ochmann and Huerta are members of Compassion & Choices’ Latino Leadership Council, a group of leaders who will help guide outreach and engage Hispanics in the 50 United States, 16 U.S. territories (e.g., Puerto Rico) and various islands. The Council is an extension of Compassion & Choices’ successful outreach to communities of color that was key to winning campaigns to pass laws authorizing medical aid in dying in California in 2015, and Colorado and the District of Columbia in 2016.
“I’ve told my family, the people I love and the people that love me, my friends, everybody, that in my death if I get … a terminal disease or something and I’m having a terrible time … I want out,” Ochmann says in the video in English. “It’s my decision. I don’t want to suffer.”
Similar to laws in Washington, D.C. and six other states, the California law gives mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to request prescription medication they can decide to take to end unbearable suffering and die peacefully in their sleep.
“This legislation is so important because it gives people an option,” Huerta says in a cell phone video.. “If you are not in
agreement with this choice.. It doesn’t have to be … for you or for your family but we shouldn’t prevent others … to make that decision.” We should not be the ones that are going to judge what individuals want to do if they decide to end their life.”
If the lower court ruling is not reversed, it would overturn a law that the overwhelming majority of Californians and their families supported.
“I mean I’m going to deal with pain for a little while… but once it’s unbearable I want out. I don’t want to go through that if I know I’m going to die,” Ochmann states in the video.
“Mauricio Ochmann and Dolores Huerta’s popularity among Latinos helped strengthen public support for medical aid in dying and inspired Latinos like Dr. Robert Olvera in California and Miguel Carrasquillo in Puerto Rico to advocate for these laws,” said Patricia A. González-Portillo,” Compassion & Choices’ national Latino communications and constituency director. “As a result, they volunteered their powerful stories about the need for medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option for terminally ill adults to peacefully end intolerable suffering.”
Latinos, who represent 39 percent of California’s population, played a key role in enacting the End of Life Option Act. A poll released by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California in Berkeley in Sept. 2015, one week before lawmakers passed the bill, showed 76 percent of Californians supported medical aid in dying, including 75 percent of Latinos.
Thanks to the advocacy of Latinos like Mauricio, Dolores, Miguel, and Dan Diaz, the husband of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman from Contra Costa County, who had to move to Oregon in 2014 to utilize its medical aid-in-dying law because California had not passed its law yet, today 69% of Latinos nationwide support medical aid in dying.
Ochmann and Huerta and actor, director and activist Edward James Olmos were the first high profile Californians to publicly endorse the California campaign to pass the End of Life Option Act at a time when many Latinos were reluctant to engage in conversations about end-of-life care.