End-of-Life Choice, Death with Dignity, Palliative Care and Counseling

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Citizen Lobby Day for Aid-in-Dying Legislation in Annapolis, Organized by Compassion & Choices

Annapolis, MD — Compassion & Choices brought one hundred death-with-dignity supporters to Annapolis to meet with their representatives and ask them to vote for The Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Death With Dignity Act, which was recently introduced in the state senate by Sen. Ron Young and will be introduced in the state house by Del. Shane Pendergrass. These two lawmakers make their first joint appearance today at a press conference about the bill, joined by other Marylanders who support the legislation.

The Senate and House bills currently have 45 sponsors combined. A new Goucher University Poll shows 60 percent of Marylanders support the legislation.

“Maryland’s grassroots is giving this legislation amazing momentum,” says Brandi Alexander, Compassion & Choices Regional Campaign and Outreach Manager for Maryland. “The demand for end-of-life options is why I am spending so much time here, working with our volunteers to make death with dignity a reality.”

The Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Death With Dignity Act is modeled on Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which was implemented in 1998. It would allow a terminally ill adult who is mentally competent to request and obtain a prescription that can be self-administered to bring about a peaceful and humane death should suffering become unbearable. It is a patient-directed medical practice called aid in dying, an end-of-life option in addition to hospice and palliative care. The law has worked for 17 years without any cases of abuse, misuse or coercion in Oregon. A similar law has been in effect in Washington State since 2009 and in Vermont since 2013.

The lobby day takes place in advance of two scheduled hearings for the legislation: March 6, at 1:00 p.m., HB1021 Judiciary & Health and Government Affairs Committees in the House of Delegates; March 10 at 1:00 PM, SB 676 Judicial Proceedings Committee in the Senate. Maryland is one of 27 states including the District of Columbia considering death-with-dignity legislation in 2015.

Maryland State Sen. Ronald Young and Del. Shane Pendergrass in Joint Press Event for Death-with-Dignity Legislation

Press Conference To Take Place During Citizen Lobby Day for Aid-in-Dying Legislation in Annapolis, Organized by Compassion & Choices

Annapolis, MD — Compassion & Choices is bringing one hundred death-with-dignity supporters to Annapolis to meet with their representatives and ask them to vote for The Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Death With Dignity Act, which was recently introduced by Sen. Ron Young and soon will be by Del. Shane Pendergrass. These two lawmakers will make their first joint appearance at a 12:30 press conference about the bill, joined by other Marylanders who support the legislation, including Aris T. Allen, Jr. (speakers listed below).

The Senate and House bills currently have 45 sponsors combined. A new Goucher University Poll shows 60 percent of Marylanders support the legislation.

“Maryland’s grassroots is giving this legislation amazing momentum,” says Brandi Alexander, Compassion & Choices Regional Campaign and Outreach Manager for Maryland. “The demand for end-of-life options is why I am spending so much time here, working with our volunteers to make death with dignity a reality.”

The Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Death With Dignity Act is modeled on Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which was implemented in 1998. It would allow a terminally ill adult who is mentally competent to request and obtain a prescription that can be self-administered to bring about a peaceful and humane death should suffering become unbearable. It is a patient-directed medical practice called aid in dying, an end-of-life option in addition to hospice and palliative care. The law has worked for 17 years without any cases of abuse, misuse or coercion in Oregon. A similar law has been in effect in Washington State since 2009 and in Vermont since 2013.

The lobby day takes place in advance of two scheduled hearings for the legislation: March 6at 1:00 PM, HB1021 Judiciary & Health and Government Affairs Committees in the House of Delegates; March 10 at 1:00 PM, SB 676 Judicial Proceedings Committee in the Senate. Maryland is one of 27 states and the District of Columbia considering death-with-dignity legislation in 2015.

The press conference with House and Senate sponsors of death-with-dignity bill takes place Wednesday, March 4, 2015, at 12:30 – 1:00 PM Eastern time in the Maryland House of Delegates. Speakers will be:

Senator RONALD N. YOUNG, Democrat, District 3, Frederick and Washington Counties

Delegate SHANE E. PENDERGRASS, Democrat, District 13, Howard County

ARIS T. ALLEN JR, son of the late Aris T. Allen, a physician and historic Maryland lawmaker who ended his life with a self-inflicted gun shot following a terminal cancer diagnosis

ALEXA FRASER, daughter of Alex Fraser, a Maryland innovator and investor who took his life at age 90 while suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease.

CATHERINE WEBER, Annapolis resident who suffers from end-stage cancer and wants the peace of mind a death-with-dignity law would provide.

BRANDI ALEXANDER, Compassion & Choices Regional Campaign and Outreach Manager for Maryland

 

 

 

 

News Reports Document The Patient End-of-Life Choice Act Working for Vermonters

The newspaper Seven Days has written about two Vermont women known to have accessed Act 39 and self-administered the aid-in-dying prescription it authorizes.  Most recently, they wrote about the woman believed to be the first Vermonter to use the end-of-life law. 

The story explains that Annette Vachon, a retired small business owner, was diagnosed at age 64 with stage IV terminal lung cancer, but radiation treatments did not slow its progress. So Vachon set about obtaining an aid-in-dying prescription from her doctor. He friend, Meg Harris, told Seven Days what happened next:

By October, she knew her time was short, Harris said. Morphine was not controlling the pain and was making her occasionally delusional.

Harris picked up the prescription for her on a Thursday. Just having the drugs in the house, she said, made Vachon feel more at peace. “It was interesting to see how much that changed for her,” Harris said. “Her only goal was to do this with dignity and humor.”

Read the full story here.

Harris came forward with the story of her friend, Annette, after reading the lengthy January profile of another Vermont woman who had accessed Act 39 named Maggie Lake.

After nine years of battling cancer — including two stem-cell transplants, chemotherapy and radiation — Lake had come to the end of her fight.

 Maggie Lake’s story was told by her sister, Katy Lesser.

Lying in bed at her Putney home as day turned to evening, the 60-year-old took the lethal dose of drugs she’d been prescribed weeks earlier. She urged her family to coach her through it as she swallowed the combination of pills and liquids.

“We sat with her. We talked to her. We talked to each other. We reminisced. We laughed. We cried,” Lesser said.

Read the full profile of Maggie Lake and Vermont’s aid-in-dying law here.

More information about Vermont’s End-of-Life Choice Law is available here.

 

State Health Commissioner Tells Lawmakers Implementation of Act 39 Has Gone Smoothly

In testimony before the Vermont Senate Health and Welfare Committee, the state’s Health Commissioner, Harry Chen, said that implementation of the state’s 2013 death-with-dignity law was going smoothly.  So far, six Vermonters have accessed it.

Read the Times Argus story here.

Chen’s remarks came during a hearing to revisit a provision of the death-with-dignity law which “sunsets” many of its safeguards in 2016. The phasing out of those safeguards – what some call hurdles – was part of a compromise to get the law through the legislature in 2013 as the first aid-in-dying law written and passed by a U.S. legislative body.  A staunch Libertarian Senator who opposed the safeguards agreed to a bill that would phase them out over time. He believed that provisions like two waiting periods and multiple written and oral requests for a prescription would reduce Vermonters’ ability to benefit from the law.

Senators also heard from Oliver Brody, the partner of a woman named Maggie Lake who used the law to end her suffering after a nine-year battle with Leukemia.

“So when the law was passed, I was glad to hear it, never thinking it would be something I would come into contact with,” Brody told the Committee.

Read a synopsis of the hearing from the VT Digger news site here.

The Senate committee hearing, however, is also seen as an opportunity for opponents to move to repeal the law altogether, raising what-if scenarios that have yet to play out in any jurisdiction where aid in dying is authorized. At the hearing, Commissioner Chen assured Senators that, to date, there had been no reports of abuse in Vermont, either.

 

Bill to Charge Doctors With Homicide for Practicing Aid in Dying Defeated in Montana House

Compassion & Choices Praises Bipartisan Group of Legislators for Rejecting Physician Imprisonment Act

(Helena, MT – Feb. 17, 2015) Compassion & Choices praised the Montana House for rejecting a bill that would have charged a doctor with homicide for writing a prescription for aid-in-dying medication to a terminally ill adult who wants that option to end their suffering. Doctors also would have lost their license to practice medicine under the bill, which would trump a Montana State Supreme Court ruling.

A bipartisan group of legislators voted 51 to 49 to reject the bill, HB328, which opponents call “The Physician Imprisonment Act.” The Montana House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Wednesday on another draconian bill, HB477, that would imprison a doctor or up to 10 years for writing an aid-in-dying prescription. A 2013 poll showed 69% of Montana voters support authorizing physicians to write prescriptions for aid-in-dying medication.

“We thank the House for rejecting this bill that would have charged physicians who honor a dying patient’s request for medical aid in dying with homicide and take away their medical license.” said Compassion & Choices Montana Campaign Manager Emily Bentley. “Now we urge the House not to reverse course on HB 328 on the final reading of the bill and to reject HB 477 that would put doctors who practice aid in dying in prison for up to 10 years.”

In 2009, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in Baxter v. Montana  that state law authorizes physicians to prescribe aid-in-dying medication to a terminally ill adult who requests it. The Court said: “The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act clearly provides that terminally ill patients are entitled to autonomous end-of-life decisions.” The court required four safeguards: The patient must be 1) terminally ill, 2) mentally competent, 3) over 18 years old, and 4) must self-administer the medication. Five years later, many doctors across Montana have written aid-in-dying prescriptions for terminally ill people who request it.