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California Medical Aid-in-Dying Law to Go Into Effect in 91 Days

Advocacy Group Announces Law Access Campaign, Nat. Speakers Bureau Launch

(Sacramento, CA – March 10, 2016) Compassion & Choices today praised the California legislature for closing the special session on healthcare that will allow the historic End of Life Option Act to go into effect in 91 days, on June 9. Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law last October after the legislature passed it in September.

“This development is great news for terminally ill Californians because they soon will have the option to end unbearable end-of-life suffering by taking prescription medication to die gently in their sleep,” said Toni Broaddus, California campaign director for Compassion & Choices. “We are very thankful to Gov. Brown and state lawmakers for responding to the voices of dying Californians who want some comfort and relief during their final days.”

The news of the closure of the special session was music to the ears of Kristy Allan, a 63-year-old mother from Placerville who is living with terminal colon cancer and has been in hospice since November 2015.

“It is a relief to me and my family to know that I will soon have the legal option to complete the official paperwork to obtain the medication to end my pain and suffering,” she said. “It is not death that scares me; it is the painful dying process. I want to have the autonomy and empowerment to make my own end-of-life decisions.”

“It gives me a great peace of mind to know that I will not be forced to die slowly and painfully,” said Elizabeth Wallner, a 52-year-old single mother from Sacramento with stage IV colon cancer that has spread to her liver and lungs, who wants to access the new law.

“It gives great comfort to know that the agonizingly traumatic image of me suffering will not be my family’s last memory of me.”

“I’m relieved that I will soon have the option to die peacefully rather than having to suffer a painful death,” said Matt Fairchild (pictured above), retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant from Burbank with stage IV melanoma that has spread to his brain and bones. “I thank Gov. Brown for giving me this peace of mind and sparing my family the trauma of watching me endure a needlessly protracted, miserable death.”

Compassion & Choices recently launched a statewide bilingual campaign to educate terminally ill Californians, families and medical providers about the benefits and requirements of the state’s medical aid-in-dying law.

“We are utilizing all our resources to ensure every Californian has meaningful access, through their healthcare providers, to clearly understand the benefits and requirements of medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option,” said Kat West, national director of policy and programs at Compassion & Choices. “We are educating both doctors and the public about the full range of options to relieve suffering at the end of life, including hospice, palliative care and medical aid in dying.”

As part of the California Access Campaign, Compassion & Choices is partnering with and providing technical assistance to medical centers, hospice facilities, community health centers and nonprofit organizations to ensure Californians statewide understand that medical aid in dying is a legitimate, accessible end-of-life care option.

California residents, physicians and pharmacists can call Compassion & Choices’ free hotline, 1-800-893-4548, to access information on the End of Life Option Act. Other resources are available at www.EndOfLifeoption.org. In addition, physicians can speak to doctors with years of experience in end-of-life care options, including medical aid in dying, by calling Compassion & Choices’ free and confidential Doc2Doc consultation program at 1-800-247-7421.

Compassion & Choices also announced today the launch of its national speakers bureau to place a range of high profile thought leaders and expert medical speakers at conferences, lecture series, medical and law schools, and notable events and venues nationwide.

The Compassion & Choices National Speakers Bureau includes social and cultural luminaries such as Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson (ret.), civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, legendary advice columnist Jeanne Phillips (a.k.a. “Dear Abby”), alongside Compassion & Choices’ own ranks of medical and topical experts on end-of-life care and options. They include national medical director Dr. David Grube and the organization’s president, Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney, former ER and ICU nurse, and physician who co-authored the Oregon Death with Dignity Act that is the model for end-of-life options bills nationwide.

“The national speakers bureau is a necessary step in our efforts to meet the rising demand for expert speakers on a broad range end-of-life topics nationwide,” said Kat West, national director of policy and programs for Compassion & Choices. “The example of Brittany Maynard, whose advocacy while she was dying of brain cancer ultimately led to the passage of the End of Life Option Act in California, demonstrates the power of stories, more than data or statistics, to touch people’s hearts and minds, and inspire them to action and personal advocacy.”

Compassion & Choices has seen an enormous increase in the number of requests for expert speakers and thought leaders who are able to address end-of-life topics to ever larger and more engaged audiences. In California alone, hundreds of requests flooded the Compassion & Choices offices during the nine-month-long campaign to enact the California End of Life Option Act.

“I look forward to participating in Compassion & Choices National Speakers Bureau,” said Brittany Maynard’s husband, Dan Diaz, who advocated for the California End of Life Option Act and now is advocating for similar legislation in other states. “Brittany wanted to see medical aid in dying available in all states so that a terminally ill individual is never forced to leave their home at the end of life in order to have a gentle passing. I continue to share Brittany’s story with as many people as possible to help pass legislation. The national speakers bureau is one more way for me to achieve that goal.”