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National Hispanic Council on Aging Endorses Medical Aid-in-Dying Laws

Urges Congress to Reject Legislation to Repeal D.C. Death with Dignity Act

Compassion & Choices praised the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) today for announcing it supports laws giving mentally capable terminally ill adults with six months of fewer to live the option of medical aid in dying to peacefully end unbearable suffering.  Medical aid in dying is authorized in the District of Columbia and six states (California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington) with 40 years of combined experience without any misuse of this end-of-life care option.

The NHCOA endorsement of medical aid in dying comes as some members of Congress are trying to repeal local laws authorizing it. Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill, H.R. 3354, with an amendment by U.S. Rep. Andy Harris (Maryland), to repeal D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act that authorizes medical aid in dying.  Twelve days later, 11 House members introduced a concurrent resolution (H.Con.Res.80) opposing this end-of-life option nationwide.

“I am deeply concerned about this federal overreach into the most personal, private decisions of D.C. residents, 11 percent of whom are Hispanic,” said NHCOA CEO/President Dr. Yanira Cruz. “Most people won’t need medical aid in dying, but laws authorizing this option benefit many terminally ill adults, by spurring conversations with their physicians and loved ones about all end-of-life care options, including hospice and palliative care, and better utilization of them.”

Headquartered in Washington, DC, the National Hispanic Council on Aging is the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families and their caregivers. The group reaches millions of Latinos each year, working to ensure the Hispanic community is better understood and fairly represented in U.S. policies.

“The support of the National Hispanic Council on Aging is a loud and powerful voice that once again demonstrates the need for the medical practice of aid in dying,” said Compassion & Choices Chief Program Officer Kim Callinan.  “It is a critical element of patient-centered care because it exemplifies a medical system that recognizes that patients should be the primary decision-maker in how they live their final days.”

Both national and state polls show strong support for medical aid in dying across the ethnic, political, and religious spectrum, including 69 percent of Latino Americans and 57 percent of doctors nationwide. A growing number of national and state medical organizations have endorsed or adopted a neutral position on medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option for mentally capable, terminally ill adults.

Latino lawmakers’ support for medical aid in dying has dramatically increased in the United States since Miguel Carrasquillo, a terminally ill Puerto Rico native, appeared in videos advocating for this option.

Miguel, a 35-year-old former chef who also had lived in New York and Chicago, was dying of brain cancer when he recorded bilingual interviews in English and in Spanish to urge his fellow Latinos to support giving terminally ill adults the option of medical aid in dying. Unfortunately, Miguel died in June 2016 without this option to end his agonizing pain because Puerto Rico has not authorized it.

Since Miguel’s death, six states with large Latino populations have either passed or introduced laws to authorize medical aid in dying: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York. Latino lawmakers are sponsors of legislation in four of those states: Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey and New York.

“Latinos should not be forced to suffer needlessly as Miguel did because he did not have the option to die peacefully,” said Patricia A. González-Portillo, national Latino communications and constituency director for Compassion & Choices. “ We should have access to the full range of end-of-life options and so should every other American.”