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Nationwide Progress in the New Year

From passing resolutions to advancing legislation around the country, C&C is already having a winning 2018.

Compassion & Choices rounded out the first month of this year with two encouraging developments. First, the Hawai‘i State AFL-CIO passed a resolution calling for lawmakers to enact legislation authorizing medical aid in dying. “This exciting news demonstrates that the local community is moving consistently and decisively to support medical aid in dying as a legitimate end-of-life option,” Compassion & Choices Hawai‘i Communications Officer Aubrey Hawk said.

Not long after, on January 30, the Alaska House Health & Social Services Committee voted 5-2 in favor of passing an end-of-life options bill sponsored by Representative Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage). The bill is now in the House Judiciary Committee, and C&C volunteers in the state have since been diligently engaging committee members and motivating residents to contact their representatives to encourage support of the legislation.

On February 5, the New York team spoke with lawmakers in Albany. They were joined by our lobbyists at meetings with Senate Coalition Leader and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein’s staff, our Senate bill sponsor Senator Diane Savino, our Assembly bill sponsor Amy Paulin, and Assembly Health Committee Chair Dick Gottfried. They also met with Assembly member staff to inspire more backing for New York’s bill.

Three days later, our on-the-ground New Jersey campaign gathered with supporters in Trenton to bring more than 450 messages of congratulations to the Garden State’s new governor, Phil Murphy, and urge him to support the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) and Assembly members John J. Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro), Tim Eustace (D- Bergen) and Joe Danielson (D-Franklin Township).

Compassion & Choices Chief Executive Officer Kimberly Callinan joined more than a dozen supporters to present the messages to Gov. Murphy, including Mount Laurel resident Mary Creagan. Mary shared her story when handing them over to Vinnie Funelas, the governor’s director of constituent relations: “My brother, Michael, died three years ago after terminal throat cancer spread to his brain. Although he was in hospice care at home, he was heavily sedated and in a lot of pain. His greatest wish was to have a peaceful end to his suffering. He spent most of the final weeks of his life begging for help to be let go. Medical aid in dying is a decision he should have been able to make for himself; a peaceful, sound option when his pain and suffering became too much to bear.” The legislation is pending in both the General Assembly and the Senate, and we hope to see it move through committee in March.

The following morning, Congress passed a two-year budget deal that did not include the harmful Harris Amendment that would block funding for D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act and repeal it. This puts us one step closer to a final appropriations bill being passed with D.C.’s law left intact.

Finally, on Feb. 22, the New Hampshire Senate voted to reject legislation that would have established a commission to study end-of-life care options in the state, including medical aid in dying. Now Compassion & Choices is calling for the state’s Legislature to bring forward a bill to authorize medical aid in dying rather than study a practice with a combined 40-year track record in six jurisdictions with no instance of abuse or coercion in its entire history.