(Chicago, IL – June 3, 2015) On the eve of the American Medical Association’s annual convention starting Saturday, Compassion & Choices officially launched its “Doctors for Dignity” ad campaign to recruit physicians who support providing terminally ill adults with the full range of end-of-life medical options.
These options include death with dignity via the medical practice of aid in dying. It provides mentally competent, terminally ill adults with the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication that they can take to shorten their dying process if their suffering becomes unbearable.
Medical aid in dying currently is authorized in five states: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico. In addition, legislators in the District of Columbia, California and at least 23 other states introduced bills this year to authorize this end-of-life option.
The Doctors for Dignity advertising and grassroots recruitment campaign launch follows the announcement two weeks ago by the California Medical Association (CMA) that it is dropping its 28-year opposition to medical aid in dying. Since the CMA’s opposition doomed previous medical aid-in-dying bills in California, its new ‘neutral’ stance could result in the California Senate passing the End of Life Option Act before its legislative action deadline this Friday.
The CMA’s policy shift may reflect the political reality that American physicians now support death with dignity via medical aid in dying by a 23-percent margin (54% vs. 31%), according to a Medscape poll conducted last fall of 17,000 U.S. doctors representing 28 medical specialties.
In addition, the American Nurses Association/California, American Public Health Association, American College of Legal Medicine, American Women’s Medical Association, Gay & Lesbian Medical Association, and American Medical Student Association support medical aid in dying.
Compassion & Choices is running online ads targeted specifically to doctors on Facebook and in the Chicago area of the Google Display Network to recruit for the Doctors for Dignity initiative.
“Despite the AMA’s longtime opposition to medical aid in dying, I suspect many individual AMA members – like me – support it,” said Dr. Eric Kress, an AMA member and a board-certified physician in family medicine, hospice and palliative medicine from Missoula, Montana who is featured in an online recruitment ad. “Many doctors know from experience that even the best hospice and palliative care cannot relieve unbearable suffering for every dying patient. We urge physicians who support medical aid in dying to speak out by joining Doctors for Dignity.”
Physicians’ growing support for medical aid in dying may be influenced by its growing support among their patients. Nearly seven in 10 Americans (68%) agree that “individuals who are terminally ill, in great pain and who have no chance for recovery, have the right to choose to end their own life,” according to a Gallup’s Values and Beliefs survey. Gallup noted that support “has risen nearly 20 points in the last two years and stands at the highest level in more than a decade.”
“Doctors for Dignity speak out to increase awareness of end-of-life issues and change law and policy,” said Dr. Kress, who has honored 10 requests for aid-in-dying medication in the last five years and led successful legislative battles with Compassion & Choices to defeat bills in Montana that would have imprisoned doctors who provide this end-of-life option. “Policymakers and medical associations will listen only if many of us speak out.”