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Compassion & Choices Launches Bilingual Access Campaign for California Aid-in-Dying Law

Effort to Focus on Terminally Ill Adults, Families, Healthcare Professionals

(Sacramento, CA – Dec. 10, 2015) Compassion & Choices today launched a bilingual campaign to educate terminally ill Californians, families and medical providers about the benefits and requirements of the state’s new aid-in-dying law.

Once it takes effect in 2016, the End of Life Option Act will give terminally ill Californians the option to make the end-of-life healthcare decisions that are right for them in the final stages of a terminal illness. The Act allows terminally ill, mentally capable adults who have a prognosis of six months or less to live, the option to request from their doctor a prescription for medication that they can self-administer, if they so choose, to die peacefully and painlessly in their sleep to relieve suffering and shorten a difficult dying process.

“It is important for every Californian to clearly understand the benefits and requirements of the law so every state resident knows all their end-of-life care options, especially if they are suffering,” said Kat West, National Director of Policy & Programs for Compassion & Choices. “Our California Access Campaign will educate and empower both doctors and terminally ill adults about all the end-of-life care options to relieve intolerable suffering, including hospice, palliative care and medical aid in dying.”

The California Access Campaign launch was announced during a news conference at the California Primary Care Association (CPCA) in Sacramento. The CPCA is among a group of community health centers, hospitals, medical and hospice facilities and nonprofit organizations that will partner with Compassion & Choices to ensure that all Californians know medical aid in dying is a legitimate and trusted end-of-life care option.

“The California Primary Care Association is proud to continue our partnership with Compassion & Choices by educating patients and our healthcare partners about the end-of-life options now available to them,” said Carmela Castellano-Garcia, President and CEO of California Primary Care Association. “Everyone deserves compassion and the option to make informed decisions at the end of their lives.”

Terminally ill Californians and their families, physicians and pharmacists can call a free hotline, 800-893-4548, to access information on the End of Life Option Act, including bilingual, information for the public. Through this hotline, physicians will be able to access Compassion & Choices’ free Doc 2 Doc consultation program to speak to doctors with years of experience in end-of-life care, including medical aid in dying. Pharmacists will also be able to access the Pharmacist2Pharmacist consultation program. For more information, visit www.endoflifeoption.org

“It is critical for doctors to understand how to respond to a terminally ill person’s request for medical aid in dying,” said Dr. David Grube, a national medical director for Compassion & Choices, who has written aid-in-dying prescriptions authorized by Oregon’s death-with-dignity law. “This response includes assessing the patient’s mental capability to make an informed request, reviewing the patient’s previous treatment, and offering alternatives to medical aid in dying, such as hospice and palliative care.”

The California Access Campaign launch follows the recent publication by the Journal of Palliative Medicine of Clinical Criteria for Physician Aid in Dying [AID]. Based on the 23+ years of clinical experience under death-with-dignity laws in Oregon (since 1998) and Washington (since 2009), [Montana (since 2009), Vermont (since 2013) and California (in 2015), the AID study concluded:

“Physician aid in dying is now recognized by a majority of Americans, Californians and physicians as an end-of-life option that should be available to terminally ill patients,” said Dr. Ben Rich, Emeritus Professor of Internal Medicine and Bioethicist from the University of California at Davis School of Medicine. “Making these criteria available will provide them with necessary background information and practice parameters for them to take into consideration in the care of patients confronting a terminal condition.”

“Death doesn’t scare me,” said End of Life Option Act supporter Elizabeth Wallner, a single mom from Sacramento who is suffering from stage IV colon cancer that has spread to her liver and lungs. “What scares me more is to have my only son and my family watch me die slowly and painfully. I don’t want this agonizingly traumatic image to be their last memory of me.”