End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Aid in Dying

Victory in Vermont

Vermont made history last month when its legislature became the first to authorize access to aid in dying. “Gov. Peter Shumlin and Vermont legislators have shattered a barrier by becoming the first politicians to show the courage to enact a death-with-dignity law,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee about the impactful win. Vermont is now the fourth state to affirmatively allow physician aid in dying and the first in the East. Oregon and Washington both sanctioned the practice through ballot initiatives, while Montana affirmed this option for the terminally ill via a state Supreme Court ruling in Compassion & Choices’ Baxter v. Montana case.

The Vermont bill is also unique in that it starts with rigorous requirements similar to the Oregon and Washington laws, including mandates for waiting periods, second opinions and extensive physician reporting. But after three years it transitions to a model governed by best practice standards, as in Montana. “Professional practice standards guide all of medicine, and it is appropriate for aid in dying to be governed in this manner,” explained Compassion & Choices Legal Affairs Director Kathryn Tucker, who testified before both the Vermont House and Senate in favor of the bill and also served as lead counsel in the Baxter case. More

Compassion Drives ‘Aid in Dying’ Movement

By Mary Steiner

Jun 02, 2013

Vermont recently approved historic legislation allowing aid in dying, sometimes referred to as “death with dignity.”

Its The Patient Choice at End of Life Act represents a tremendous advance for citizens of that state and the entire movement to expand end-of-life choice. Although widely covered in media on the East Coast, this important development received little attention in Hawaii.

Aid in dying allows terminally ill, mentally competent adult patients to request, and physicians to prescribe, life-ending medication when they their suffering unbearable to bring about a peaceful death.

Vermont is the first state to enact such a law legislatively. Oregon and Washington passed death-with-dig- nity acts by referendum, while the Montana Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that physicians there may provide aid in dying.

The new Vermont law, which the governor signed on May 20, contains provisions similar to Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act and policies in Hawaii. It follows Oregon’s model, but after three years, those requirements expire, at which time professional practice standards will prevail, as they do in Hawaii. More

Help Doctors Like Me Protect End-of-Life Liberty

Dear friends,

For a while, it looked like I was in serious trouble.

I’m an old-school family physician in Missoula, Montana, just like my dad before me. I had written aid-in-dying prescriptions for three patients since the Montana Supreme Court’s Baxter decision made it legal to do so in 2009.

But now, the Baxter decision was about to be upended by state legislators. Working with anti-choice zealots, they proposed a bill to put doctors in jail for up to ten years for writing those legal prescriptions.

Compassion & Choices, which spearheaded Baxter and made physician aid in dying possible for my patients, was still on the scene—protecting the decision from all manner of legislative and activist mischief. Thankfully, they were ready to defeat this latest attack. More

Tell Everyone You’re Good to Go

Dear friends,

Hindsight is always 20/20. But I still feel utterly duped by the medical establishment for what happened to my father, Ted Hamann.

At age 73, he went into his local hospital for a routine surgical procedure. He came out of it doing as well as expected, but six hours later he was in an ambulance on a 75-mile mad dash to Boston due to a stroke.

Doctors there gave us nothing but optimistic predictions about how Dad would respond to surgery. And we felt hopeful afterwards, when he was discharged to rehab to learn to walk, talk and swallow again.

Unfortunately, he had another stroke—this one even more debilitating. Once again, we were steered toward treatment as the only logical and responsible option. We were skeptical, so at every turn we gave doctors my father’s DNR and reminded them that he wanted no extraordinary measures or aggressive treatment of any kind. More

Vermont Gov. Signs First Death-with-Dignity Law Passed by Legislature in Nation

CONTACT: Sean Crowley
202-550-6524
, scrowley@compassionandchoices.org 

by Compassion & Choices staff

Historic Achievement is Breakthrough in Death-with-Dignity Movement

(Washington, D.C. – May 20, 2013) Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin’s signing into law at 2pm today of the nation’s first death-with-dignity bill passed by a legislature is a “breakthrough” moment, according to the nation’s leading end-of-life choice advocacy group, Compassion & Choices. Vermont also will become the first eastern state and fourth state nationwide where aid in dying clearly is legal and accessible starting immediately.

“This historic achievement is a political breakthrough that will boost support for death-with-dignity bills nationwide,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years who co-authored the nation’s first Death-with-Dignity law in Oregon and was a senior advisor on the successful campaign to pass the Death-with-Dignity law in Washington state, both of which were approved by citizen-passed ballot initiatives and served as models for the Vermont legislation. More