Category Archive: Newsletter

  1. California Appeals Court Overturns Ruling That Imperiled End of Life Option Act

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    A California appeals court on November 27 directed a superior trial court to nullify its judgment from last May that suspended the state’s medical aid-in-dying law before the appeals court granted a stay in June reinstating it. A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeals in California found the plaintiffs had no right to sue to block the End of Life Option Act. The court said they failed to show harmed because participation is optional.


    In a majority 2-1 ruling, the appeals court in Ahn v. Hestrin, stated:

    “… we conclude that the Ahn parties lack standing for any of the theories they have asserted in this appeal. We have no way of knowing whether, on remand [sending the case back to superior court], they will be able to amend their complaint so as to allege standing, whether the trial court will grant them leave to do so, or whether they will be able to prove up their amended allegations.”

    The appeals court ruling followed a hearing on Oct. 8, featuring oral arguments by the plaintiffs, the state attorney general’s office and attorneys working with Compassion & Choices representing two terminally ill adults and a physician.

    “The good news is that the law remains intact for the foreseeable future, so doctors can write prescriptions for terminally ill Californians who need the option of medical aid in dying,” said Kevin Díaz, chief legal advocacy officer for Compassion & Choices, whose sister organization, Compassion & Choices Action Network, led the campaign to pass the End of Life Option Act. “But we know from experience over the last 2½ years in this case that our opponents will pursue every possible legal tactic to overturn the law. We will fight them at every turn to protect it.”

    “This appeals court ruling is an important legal precedent that strengthens our chances of successfully defending the law,” said John Kappos, a partner in the O’Melveny law firm working with Compassion & Choices who presented oral argument to the appeals court. “But the harsh reality is this case is likely to last several more years because the plaintiffs are hell-bent on depriving Californians of their constitutional right to end-of-life care options that ensure terminally ill Californians have access to a peaceful death, free of unbearable suffering.”

    “The plaintiffs must show legal standing or they will not be able to continue the case,” said Jon B. Eisenberg, an expert in appellate law working with the Compassion & Choices legal team.  “But the appeals court provided the plaintiffs with a roadmap for doing so, which they will likely attempt to do once the case is sent back to the superior court. And it is also possible that the California Supreme Court will take the case instead and rule directly on the constitutionality of the End of Life Option Act.”

    On July 18, the appeals court granted an emergency motion by the two terminally ill adults and a physician represented by Compassion & Choices for an automatic stay to immediately suspend a lower court’s judgment on May 30, 2018, invalidating the End of Life Option Act. The appeals court ruling reinstating the law was retroactive to June 1, 2018, when Compassion & Choices filed a notice of appeal.  

  2. Volunteer Spotlight: Dr. Charles Miller

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    An active supporter of Compassion & Choices since 2012 as well as a member of our Doctors for Dignity program, Charles Miller’s firm belief in end-of-life options came from his more than 40 years as a medical oncologist. “Taking care of dying patients for that long a period of time, I always felt like a patient should have some say in how their life ends,” he explains. “Once you’re an oncologist, it takes some years of maturing to recognize or put into perspective that it’s not the right thing to always treat the patient; sometimes it’s best to stop treatment. It takes a while for all doctors to get used to that. In general, the patients know exactly what they want. I believe it should be our job, as physicians, to support our patients in their end-of-life choices whatever they are.” (more…)

  3. Compassion & Choices Attorney Honored for Diversity Work

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    In November, Compassion & Choices Staff Attorney Jonathan Patterson received the Oregon State Bar (OSB) President’s Diversity & Inclusion Award. According to the OSB’s website, the award “recognizes members who have made significant contributions to the goal of increasing minority representation in the legal profession.”

    An integral member of the Compassion & Choices legal team, which works on behalf of individuals and their families across the country to protect end-of-life liberty, Jonathan helps ensure that people receive the care they want and are in charge of their options as they near the end of their lives.

    He also serves as the current chair of the OSB Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, and was past-chair of the OSB Diversity Section. In these positions, he used his experience as an attorney in “movement law” to speak on Continuing Legal Education panels. Jonathan also spent three years as president of Oregon’s chapter of the National Bar Association (NBA) and currently serves on its national board. There, he led the effort to create the NBA LGBTQ Division and serves as its inaugural chairperson.

    Jonathan’s efforts have also exposed the work of Compassion & Choices to other attorneys, including those from a law firm that donated over a million dollars in free legal assistance by representing Compassion & Choices’ first legal client of color, Ana Romero. Romero, the widow of Juan Fernando Romero, was sued by his family to take away her authority to make healthcare decisions for him when he fell ill. In March 2018, a judge ruled she was rightfully in control of his medical care.

    Jonathan’s groundbreaking work at the Oregon State Bar, for the National Bar Association and in the legal community as a whole supplements his efforts at Compassion & Choices to protect the healthcare decision-making rights of all Americans.

  4. Compassion & Choices Attorney Honored for Diversity Work

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    The Oregon State Bar selects Jonathan Patterson for their 2018 President’s Diversity & Inclusion Award.

    In November, Compassion & Choices Staff Attorney Jonathan Patterson received the Oregon State Bar (OSB) President’s Diversity & Inclusion Award. According to the OSB’s website, the award “recognizes members who have made significant contributions to the goal of increasing minority representation in the legal profession.”

    An integral member of the Compassion & Choices legal team, which works on behalf of individuals and their families across the country to protect end-of-life liberty, Jonathan helps ensure that people receive the care they want and are in charge of their options as they near the end of their lives.

    He also serves as the current chair of the OSB Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, and was past-chair of the OSB Diversity Section. In these positions, he used his experience as an attorney in “movement law” to speak on Continuing Legal Education panels. Jonathan also spent three years as president of Oregon’s chapter of the National Bar Association (NBA) and currently serves on its national board. There, he led the effort to create the NBA LGBTQ Division and serves as its inaugural chairperson.

    Jonathan’s work has also exposed the work of Compassion & Choices to other attorneys, including those from a law firm that donated over a million dollars in free legal assistance by representing Compassion & Choices’ first legal client of color, Ana Romero. Romero, the widow of Juan Fernando Romero, was sued by his family to take away her authority to make healthcare decisions for him when he fell ill. In March 2018, a judge ruled she was rightfully in control of her husband’s medical care.

    Jonathan’s groundbreaking work at the Oregon State Bar, for the National Bar Association and in the legal community as a whole supplements his efforts at Compassion & Choices to protect the healthcare decision-making rights of all Americans.

  5. California Court Overturns Ruling That Imperiled End of Life Option Act

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    (L) Kevin Díaz, chief legal advocacy officer for Compassion & Choices, and (R) outside counsel John Kappos speaking to journalists after court hearing in 2017.

    Justices find opponents lack legal standing to file their lawsuit opposing medical aid in dying in the Ahn v. Hestrin case.

    A California appeals court on November 27 directed a superior trial court to nullify its judgment from last May that suspended the state’s medical aid-in-dying law before the appeals court granted a stay in June reinstating it. A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeals in California found the plaintiffs had no right to sue to block the End of Life Option Act. The court said they failed to show harmed because participation is optional.


    In a majority 2-1 ruling, the appeals court in Ahn v. Hestrin, stated:

    “… we conclude that the Ahn parties lack standing for any of the theories they have asserted in this appeal. We have no way of knowing whether, on remand [sending the case back to superior court], they will be able to amend their complaint so as to allege standing, whether the trial court will grant them leave to do so, or whether they will be able to prove up their amended allegations.”

    The appeals court ruling followed a hearing on Oct. 8, featuring oral arguments by the plaintiffs, the state attorney general’s office and attorneys working with Compassion & Choices representing two terminally ill adults and a physician.

    “The good news is that the law remains intact for the foreseeable future, so doctors can write prescriptions for terminally ill Californians who need the option of medical aid in dying,” said Kevin Díaz, chief legal advocacy officer for Compassion & Choices, whose sister organization, Compassion & Choices Action Network, led the campaign to pass the End of Life Option Act. “But we know from experience over the last 2½ years in this case that our opponents will pursue every possible legal tactic to overturn the law. We will fight them at every turn to protect it.”

    “This appeals court ruling is an important legal precedent that strengthens our chances of successfully defending the law,” said John Kappos, a partner in the O’Melveny law firm working with Compassion & Choices who presented oral argument to the appeals court. “But the harsh reality is this case is likely to last several more years because the plaintiffs are hell-bent on depriving Californians of their constitutional right to end-of-life care options that ensure terminally ill Californians have access to a peaceful death, free of unbearable suffering.”

    “The plaintiffs must show legal standing or they will not be able to continue the case,” said Jon B. Eisenberg, an expert in appellate law working with the Compassion & Choices legal team.  “But the appeals court provided the plaintiffs with a roadmap for doing so, which they will likely attempt to do once the case is sent back to the superior court. And it is also possible that the California Supreme Court will take the case instead and rule directly on the constitutionality of the End of Life Option Act.”

    On July 18, the appeals court granted an emergency motion by the two terminally ill adults and a physician represented by Compassion & Choices for an automatic stay to immediately suspend a lower court’s judgment on May 30, 2018, invalidating the End of Life Option Act. The appeals court ruling reinstating the law was retroactive to June 1, 2018, when Compassion & Choices filed a notice of appeal.  

  6. Compassion & Choices Launches New Website

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    As our organization has grown and more of our audience has sought to access our information, tools and services online, the need for a more comprehensive, navigable website became apparent — and direct feedback from people confirmed our notion. Said Compassion & Choices Chief Executive Officer Kim Callinan, “I started my tenure as CEO with a nationwide listening tour of our supporters, volunteers and donors. One thing that I heard, time and again, was that our website was difficult to use. So, we set about improving our website based on that feedback. Now I’m happy to say that the new and improved Compassion & Choices website is ready!”

    On our revamped website, still at CompassionAndChoices.org, you’ll find an updated resources section where you can now easily search by a keyword or type of document. We reorganized our Plan Your Care section so that you can more easily find the documents you’ll need based on where you are in the planning process. The news section can now be filtered by state and year so you can find the articles and blogs that are of the most interest to you.

    We hope that you find these improvements helpful as you take action to advocate for end-of-life options and plan your end-of-life care. If you notice any links that don’t work, please send a note to [email protected], and we will address your concerns as quickly as possible.

  7. Volunteer Spotlight: Dr. Omega Silva

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    Retired Washington, D.C., physician Omega Silva, who lives with three cancer diagnoses, taught and practiced medicine for over 50 years, served as the first woman president of the Howard University Medical Alumni Association and was former president of the American Medical Women’s Association. She has been on board as an active advocate for medical aid in dying with Compassion & Choices since nearly the beginning.

    “In contrast to many other doctors, I never felt a physician’s only goal is to keep people alive no matter what. I think you need to look at the quality of life they have and what they think life is. Maybe life isn’t being on a respirator or having an NG [nasogastric] tube just to stay here a few more days,” she explains. “It was early on in my career that I came to grips with death, but a lot of physicians would rather not talk about death at all. I had to confront death early in my family too: My uncle got shot in his laundromat, and then his wife died shortly after that, and even their son died — he got cancer. What in the world is a 23-year-old doing with kidney cancer that kills him within a month or two? It happens though.”

    Recently, Dr. Silva has provided written and spoken testimony to lawmakers, recorded public service announcements for Compassion & Choices to educate D.C. residents about end-of-life options, and participated in the National Academy of Sciences workshops on medical aid in dying. But she has filled her life pursuing numerous interests. Once an aspiring fashion designer, she made all her own clothes from the time she was in junior high until she was a second-year resident. And she and her husband, both fond of trains, belong to the National Railway Historical Society and ride the rails across the United States and Canada. “I’ve done a lot that has nothing to do with medicine!”

  8. American Academy of Family Physicians Moves to “Engaged Neutrality” on Medical Aid in Dying

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    The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), broke ranks with the American Medical Association (AMA) in early October by adopting a new position of “engaged neutrality” on the issue of medical aid in dying.

    Since the new position by AAFP, the second largest component society of the AMA with more than 120,000 members, is at odds with the 1993 AMA Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 5.7 opposing “assisted suicide,” the resolution required a two-thirds supermajority vote to approve it. AAFP delegates approved the resolution, which ”captured the spirit” of resolutions introduced by the California, New Mexico, New York and Washington Academy of Family Physicians, by voice vote with no objections.

    “The action taken today allows the AAFP to advocate for engaged neutrality on this subject at future AMA House of Delegates meetings,” said Michael Munger, MD, board chair of the AAFP. “Through our ongoing and continuous relationship with our patients, family physicians are well-positioned to counsel patients on end-of-life care, and we are engaged in creating change in the best interest of our patients.”

    “As a former delegate for the American Academy of Family Physicians, I am proud that the organization has adopted a position of engaged neutrality to ensure its members can advise terminally ill patients about all end-of-life care options and provide them,” said Compassion & Choices National Medical Director Dr. David Grube, who was honored as Family Physician of the Year by the Oregon Academy of Family Physicians in 1986 and Oregon Medical Association Doctor Citizen of the Year in 2009. “I believe many AMA constituent societies will follow suit, so it is only a matter of time before the AMA does as well.”

    “By supporting the AMA’s opposition to medical aid in dying, some members feel the AAFP is telling them that they are unethical,” concludes the resolution. “Overall, the testimony provided in the hearing supported development of an AAFP position of engaged neutrality toward medical aid in dying as a personal decision made by the patient in the context of the physician-patient relationship … the American Academy of Family Physicians [sic] reject the use of the phrase ‘assisted suicide’ or ‘physician-assisted suicide’ in formal statements or documents and [sic] direct the AAFP’s American Medical Association (AMA) delegation to promote the same in the AMA House of Delegates.”

    Last June, the AMA House of Delegates voted 56 to 44 percent to reject a report by its Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) that recommended the AMA maintain its Code of Medical Ethics’ opposition to medical aid in dying. Instead, the House of Delegates referred the report back to CEJA for further work.

    In fact, the CEJA report implicitly acknowledged that medical aid-in-dying laws improve end-of-life care by spurring conversations between physicians and terminally ill patients about all end-of-life care options, such as hospice and palliative care:

    “Patient requests for [medical aid in dying] invite physicians to have the kind of difficult conversations that are too often avoided. They open opportunities to explore the patient’s goals and concerns, to learn what about the situation the individual finds intolerable and to respond creatively to the patient’s needs …”

  9. California Court Issues Tentative Ruling in Our Favor

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    The court of appeals suggests that opponents had no standing to bring the case Ahn v. Hestrin, which aims to invalidate the End of Life Option Act.

    The California Court of Appeals has released an encouraging tentative ruling in the Ahn v. Hestrin lawsuit to overturn the End of Life Option Act. At the moment, the court’s position is that the plaintiffs had no standing to bring the case and the trial court erred in allowing the suit to proceed in the first place.

    The tentative ruling states: “The Ahn parties’ terminally ill patients may be divided into two groups. One group, upon receiving their diagnosis, will want to request assisted suicide. The Ahn parties, however, brought this action to prevent them from doing so. They cannot possibly ‘speak for’ this group of patients, even if they claim to be doing so for their benefit. The other group will not want to request assisted suicide. In that event, however, all they have to do is not request it. The Act simply does not affect them; thus, it also does not affect the Ahn parties.”

    This opinion is only preliminary, however. After hearing oral arguments from both sides, which are scheduled for October 9, the court could choose to change or amend the tentative ruling. Even if we prevail at the appellate level, opponents could appeal to the California Supreme Court.

    As parties in this case, Compassion & Choices and cooperating counsel will be at the court during the oral arguments representing two patients and a physician. Meanwhile our legal team continues preparing a vigorous defense of the law. Says Compassion & Choices National Director of Legal Advocacy Kevin Díaz, “While we are hopeful that the result stands, it can completely change, and we’re poised to protect the law regardless of the outcome at the Court of Appeals.”

  10. Volunteer Spotlight: Yasuyo Tanii

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    “Since I was a child I always believed, naively, that when to finish your life would be entirely your choice. But as I got older, I realized that’s not true,” says Compassion & Choices volunteer . “You can be forced to live with excruciating pain. I think it seems so wrong, illogical and cruel.”

    Yasuyo, a retired flight attendant with Japan Airlines and real estate agent, lived in Tokyo until she was 35 before moving to Honolulu, Hawai’i, with her husband and then settling in Portland, Oregon. Stories she heard throughout the years about people’s difficulties in dying only made her beliefs about end-of-life autonomy stronger.

    “My father had Alzheimer’s disease,” she recalls. “He wasn’t himself anymore, and I knew this was not how he would want to live. I hoped for a way to relieve everyone of this suffering, but there was none. That was a hard time, heartbreaking.”

    Recently at a barbecue, Yasuyo ran into a friend she hadn’t seen for over a decade who works for Compassion & Choices. “When she told me about it I said, ‘Wow, that’s exactly what I’m interested in.’ So she asked me if I wanted to volunteer. I had never volunteered, but I thought that this was something I wanted to be part of.”

    Yasuyo now helps out in the Portland office with administrative tasks and other duties. “Basically I’m doing whatever nobody else wants to do or has time for, and I’m happy to do it,” she says. “It feels liberating. Whenever I come into the office, I have no idea what I’ll end up doing, and that’s fun for me.”

    Oregon supporters: Come to Compassion & Choices Oregon’s signature fall fundraising event October 17 featuring jazz legend Chuck Israels! Click here for more details and to register.


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