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

Compassion & Choices

New Poll: 3 out of 4 Californians Support End of Life Option Bill

HQ6FJe5P_400x400Three out of four Californians support “a bill under consideration before the California State Legislature [that] would allow terminally ill people to be able to voluntarily end their own lives by taking drugs prescribed by a physician.”

That is the conclusion of a new poll released today by the Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) at the University of California, Berkeley.

This overwhelming support includes strong majorities in both major political parties and among independent voters, and crosses most other demographic categories, including race/ethnicity.

A large majority of respondents (76 percent) supported that idea, including 82 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of independents and 67 percent of Republicans.

Support levels of at least 69 percent were registered across all other demographic categories, from gender to educational, income and age levels.

Among age groups, support was weakest among 18- to 19-year-olds (70 percent) and stronger among older groups: 86 percent among those in their 40s, 79 percent among those in their 50s and 81 percent among those over 65.

Background

The poll was conducted for IGS by Survey Sampling International, using online questionnaires. There were 1,097 respondents sampled between Aug. 11 and Aug. 26. The margin of error is 2.5 percent. Responses for the entire sample were weighted to reflect the statewide distribution of the California population by gender, race/ethnicity, education and age.

Appendix

A bill under consideration before the California State Legislature would allow terminally ill people to be able to voluntarily end their own lives by taking drugs prescribed by a physician. Do you favor or oppose this bill?

Question

 

Percent

Favor

75.5%

Oppose

24.5%

By Partisanship

 

Democrats

Independents

Republicans

Favor

82.4%

78.7%

67.1%

Oppose

17.6%

21.3%

32.9%

 

By Income

 

Less than $25,000

$25,000-$49,999

$50,000-$74,999

$75,000-$99,999

$100,000-$149,999

$150,000+

Favor

74.8%

75.2%

77.6%

74.8%

83.7%

78.7%

Oppose

25.2%

24.8%

22.4%

25.2%

16.3%

21.3%

By Age

 

Age 18-29

Age 30-39

Age 40-49

Age 50-65

Age 65+

Favor

70.1%

74.8%

86.4%

78.9%

81.5%

Oppose

29.9%

25.2%

13.6%

21.1%

18.5%

 

By Race/Ethnicity

 

Asian

Black

Latino

White

Favor

78.9%

52.3%

74.9%

79.5%

Oppose

21.1%

47.7%

25.1%

20.5%

 

By Education

 

Less than high school

High school degree or equivalent

Some college

Bachelor’s degree

Advanced degree

Favor

75.0%

69.1%

74.6%

79.8%

83.25%

Oppose

25.0%

30.9%

25.4%

20.2%

16.75%

 

By Gender

 

Female

Male

Favor

77.7%

76.4%

Oppose

22.3%

23.6%

 

CA Assembly Public Health Committee Clears Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill

Emotional Hearing on Brittany Maynard-Inspired Bill Draws Hundreds of Supporters

(Sacramento, CA – Sept. 1, 2015) The California Assembly Public Health and Developmental Services Committee today approved a bill with bipartisan support by a 10 to 3 vote to give terminally ill adults facing unbearable suffering the option of medical aid in dying. The legislation, called the End of Life Option Act (ABX2-15), now moves to the Assembly Finance Committee, and if that committee approves it, the full Assembly will vote on it.

IMG_1066The approval of the End of Life Option Act comes a week after California legislators re-introduced the legislation as one of a handful of health-related bills in special session. While the special session operates under different rules than the full legislature, it is expected that it will run through Sept. 11 and adjourn at the same time as the legislature.

“The Assembly Public Health Committee’s stamp of approval of the End of Life Option Act is a major step toward passing a law to give terminally ill Californians the option to shorten an unbearable dying process,” said Toni Broaddus, California campaign director for Compassion & Choices. “The compelling stories of people touched by this issue clearly won over the committee. We hope Assemblymembers will continue to listen to the impassioned voices of terminally ill Californians who desperately need medical aid in dying as an end-of-life option.”

Nearly seven out of 10 California voters (69%), including 70 percent of Latinos and 60 percent of Catholics voters, support the End of Life Option Act, according to a bipartisan statewide poll.

The End of Life Option Act would give mentally capable adults with a terminal prognosis of six months or less to live the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication that they could take to painlessly and peacefully shorten their dying process.

The bill includes the strongest safeguards of any law or legislation of its kind in the country.

The dying person is required to make two oral requests for the medication, 15 days apart, followed by a written request. In addition, two witnesses must confirm in writing that the dying person is acting voluntarily and is not being coerced into requesting aid-in-dying medication. Prior to providing a prescription, doctors are required to confirm that the applicant is fully informed about alternatives to medical aid in dying, including comfort care, hospice care and pain control, also known as palliative care.

“I appreciate the support from my Assembly colleagues on the Public Health and Developmental Services Committee who passed this important piece of legislation,” said Senator Monning. “Every successful milestone moves us one step closer to providing a compassionate alternative for terminally ill patients who have run out of other treatment options.”

Senator Wolk thanked her colleagues in the Assembly for demonstrating “their compassion for those facing the end of life.”

The End of Life Option Act was inspired by Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old Californian with terminal brain cancer who moved to Oregon to utilize its Death with Dignity Act last year.

According to a new study published by the Journal of Palliative Medicine, the Oregon law “has resulted in or at least reflects more open conversation and careful evaluation of end-of-life options, more appropriate palliative care training of physicians, and more efforts to reduce barriers to access to hospice care and has thus increased hospice referrals and reduced potentially concerning patterns of hospice use in the state.”

Only three other states authorize the medical option of aid in dying: Washington, Montana and Vermont. In the final weeks of her life, Maynard partnered with Compassion & Choices to launch a campaign to make aid in dying an open and accessible medical option in California and other states nationwide.

Hundreds of End of Life Option Act supporters, clad in yellow T-shirts, heard testimony by Christy O’Donnell, a single mom with terminal lung cancer that has metastasized to her brain, liver, spine and rib.

“I have excruciating headaches. I’m nauseous, I have intense neck and back pain, she said. “I have painful shingles and excruciating neuropathy in my hands and feet. As I am morphine intolerant my palliative care doctor has struggled in finding any pain medications that work.”

During the hearing, Assemblymembers also heard testimony from Dan Diaz, the widower of Brittany Maynard.

“It is offensive to hear people judge those of us who want the option of having a gentle and peaceful dying process,” he said. “There are certain diseases that produce horrific and needless suffering at the end of life; Brittany’s case was one of those.”

Diaz fought back tears as he recalled the painful death of his friend, Jennifer Glass, who stood next to him during a January news conference to announce the bill introduction.

“My wife Brittany passed away gently; Jennifer’s death was not as gentle,” he said.  “In either case it was the individual determining that it was their time, and in either case the result was the same, death.  But the manner of getting there was quite different.   Shouldn’t the individual have the option of which they would choose for themselves?”

An oncologist from Palo Alto, Dr. Mike Turbow, whose disabled son died three years ago, testified about the thousands of dying patients he treated in hospice and palliative care during his medical career of nearly 40 years.

“This law does not target the disabled; it is about relieving suffering in terminally ill patients,” said Dr. Turbow. “So long as a patient with a terminal illness, whether disabled or not, can make a rational decision, medical aid in dying should be an option, along with palliative care and hospice, available to all Californians.”

Libertarian, Washington Post syndicated columnist George Will Endorses Death With Dignity!

By Sean Crowley

g willThe [Maryville, TN] Daily Times pre-empted The Washington Post by publishing a column today by WP syndicated columnist George Will, a self-described libertarian, endorsing death with dignity, also known as medical aid in dying, for terminally ill adults who want to the option to peacefully end unbearable suffering. Yesterday, Will’s research assistant confirmed to Compassion & Choices that this column will be published in Sunday’s The Washington Post.

To put this endorsement in perspective, The Wall Street Journal called Will “perhaps the most powerful journalist in America.”

Will’s column quotes death-with-dignity advocates Brittany Maynard (“I’m not killing myself. Cancer is killing me.”), who died last Nov. 1, and Jennifer Glass (“I’m doing everything I can to extend my life. No one should have the right to prolong my death.”), who died on Aug. 11.

Doctors_0358It also extensively quotes Dr. Lynette Cederquist, the physician plaintiff in a suit filed by Compassion & Choices asserting an 1874 California law prohibiting assisted suicide does not apply to physicians who offer medical aid in dying. She is a board certified physician in internal medicine, hospice and palliative medicine, and a clinical professor of medicine from La Jolla, California.

Physician-assisted dying has been done surreptitiously “as long as we have been practicing medicine,” Cederquist tells Will.

The column is timely because the California legislature is considering whether to pass the End of Life Option Act that would authorize medical aid in dying in the Golden State during its special session on healthcare that ends on September 11. New York is among the 23 others states that are considering or have introduced death-with-dignity legislation this year, along with the District of Columbia.

Will’s column concludes:

britt and dog-001“There is nobility in suffering bravely borne, but also in affirming at the end the distinctive human dignity of autonomous choice. Brittany Maynard, who chose to be with loved ones when she self-administered her lethal medications, was asleep in five minutes and soon dead.”

It will be interesting to see if Will discusses his column endorsing death with dignity on Fox News Sunday at 2pm ET.

You can read the full column by clicking here.

Re-Introduction of End of Life Option Act Gives Dying Californians Hope

Bill’s Passage in Special Session Would Give Terminally Ill Californians Peace of Mind

(Sacramento, CA – Aug. 18, 2015) California lawmakers have reintroduced the End of Life Option Act as one of a handful of health-related bills they will consider during their special session. While the special session operates under different rules than the full legislature, it is expected that it will run through Sept. 11 and adjourn at the same time as the legislature.

Talamentes-Eggman
Assemblymember Susan Talamentes-Eggman

This time, the California bill was introduced by Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman, with Senators Bill Monning and Lois Wolk acting as the primary co-authors.

“This issue is urgent for terminally ill Californians from all walks of life who cannot afford to wait for relief from unbearable suffering in their final days,” said Compassion & Choices California Campaign Director Toni Broaddus during a news conference to announce the bill reintroduction at the state Capitol. “These Californians are dying in a very painful way, without access to medical options that could help them die peacefully.”

The safeguards in this legislation are so strong that the California Medical Association, which has historically opposed similar bills, dropped its opposition to the End of Life Option Act in May. Two weeks later, the California Senate approved the bill, but it stalled in the Assembly Health Committee. The California bill would give terminally ill people in the final months and weeks of a terminal disease the option to request and receive a doctor’s prescription for medication they could take to end their dying process if their suffering becomes too great.

Nearly seven out of 10 California voters (69%), including 70 percent of Latinos and 60 percent of Catholics, support the End of Life Option Act, according to June bipartisan poll.

“We promised that we were committed to continuing to fight for expanded end-of-life care options for Californians, and we have kept that promise,” said Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman, new author of the bill, ABX2-15, formerly numbered as SB 128. “We will not wait another year.”

Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning and Senate Majority Whip Lois Wolk, the original bill’s coauthors, urged immediate passage of the legislation.

“It is a disservice to these individuals and their families not to take action now,” said Senator Monning.

“Two California superior court judges have recently looked at this [issue] and told desperate and terminally ill patients it is the Legislature’s responsibility to act,” Senator Wolk said. “It’s time to act now.”

Elizabeth Wallner, a single mom with stage IV colon cancer spoke about the fears of leaving her family with memories of a haunting death.

“What scares me more is to have my only son, a teenager, and my family watch me die slowly and painfully from cancer,” she said. “I don’t want this agonizingly traumatic image to be their last memory of me.”

Delores and Dan
Advocates Delores Huerta and Dan Diaz

Dolores Huerta, labor leader and civil rights activist, recalled her mother’s death from breast cancer that metastasized throughout her body.

“My life-long work as an advocate for social justice has taught me that these difficult moments require our utmost compassion, the wisdom to imagine walking in another person’s shoes and the ability to respect the wishes of others,” she said.

The End of Life Option Act was inspired by Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old Californian who chose to move to Oregon last year to utilize its medical aid-in-dying law to peacefully end her intolerable dying process from terminal brain cancer.

Her husband, Dan Diaz, recalled the recent death of his friend Jennifer Glass from San Mateo. Glass, a medical aid-in-dying supporter who fought until her last breath to help pass the End of Life Option Act, died last week (see newly released video she recorded last November at: bit.ly/JenniferGlassInterview). Glass was scheduled to testify in support of the bill before the Assembly Health Committee on July 7, but the hearing was cancelled.

“On that Tuesday morning I sat at her bedside, I saw my dear friend that I’d known for seven months, unconscious and withering away,” Diaz said. “The pain that Jennifer was experiencing from the tumor, that had now spread to her brain, had become unbearable. So at Jennifer’s request, she had been put into terminal sedation 5 days earlier. Jennifer died later that night, but that was not the dying process she had wanted. Why did Jennifer Glass have to endure those 5 days in that manner?”

The End of Life Option Act is closely modeled after Oregon’s Death-With-Dignity law, which has worked as intended for over 17 years without a single documented incident of abuse.

San Mateo Daily Journal publishes story about C&C advocate Jennifer Glass’ painful passing

By Katie Wingo

With deep sadness, Compassion & Choices bid farewell to our close friend and ally, Jennifer Glass, on Aug. 11. She worked tirelessly to pass California’s End of Life Option Act until she died from stage IV cancer. Unfortunately, the California legislature did not pass the bill in time for Jennifer to utilize the end-of-life option she so tenaciously fought for: medical aid in dying. Her hometown newspaper, The San Mateo Daily Journal, published a touching story about her advocacy work.

The paper interviewed her husband, Harlan Seymour, and her sister, Mavis Prall, about Jennifer’s end-of-life experience. She opted for palliative sedation. The process involves medicating the person into a coma, then withholding liquids and nutrients until death occurs. Opponents of the End of Life Option Act often claim that medical aid in dying is an unnecessary option for dying patients who have access to proper palliative care, and if necessary, palliative sedation. But Jennifer’s family said palliative sedation was not as peaceful an option for her.

 “As her lungs filled with fluid making breathing difficult and her pain increased, [Jennifer] opted to undergo palliative sedation.

“It took her more than five days to die, a disheartening time marked by her awakening from the coma in a panic one evening,” Seymour said.

“By the time she started palliative sedation, she was in so much pain, she really couldn’t say goodbye to people. If there was an end-of-life option [of medical aid in dying], she could have started earlier, even just one day, she could have said goodbye to her loved ones and had a quiet death. Palliative sedation is really just a slow motion version of what the end-of-life option [of medical aid in dying] offers. Instead of a seven-day, dragged-out death in a coma, it’s a death that could just last a few hours and allows for a better ending with one’s family … It would have been a great comfort to her if she had the choice to end her life in a faster manner. She would have suffered less.”

Prall also spoke about her sister’s experience, saying in the C&C news release:

“She did not want her loved ones to have to watch the life drain from her over a five-day period, nor to watch her lose all dignity as her body slowly shut down. Members of the California Legislature should be aware that their inaction has painful consequences. I urge them to pass the End-of-Life Option Act this year.”

C&C’s California Campaign Director Toni Broaddus addressed the legislature’s inaction in the San Mateo Daily Journal story:

“With Jennifer, [palliative sedation] did not work as effectively … It’s really important for people to understand that in reality, palliative sedation does not work for everyone and those folks need another option. Medical aid in dying is that option.”

We are grateful we got the chance to fight alongside Jennifer and learn from her experience, and vow to continue fighting in her honor for passage of California’s End of Life Option Act to provide relief to other terminally ill Californians.

You can read the full San Mateo Daily Journal article by clicking here.