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

Compassion & Choices

Brittany Maynard’s Widower Urges Death-With-Dignity Advocates to Contact Lawmakers as State Legislatures Convene

Dan Diaz Conducts First Interviews Since Brittany’s Death With National Media, Including People, The Meredith Vieira Show, Today and Lawrence O’Donnell shows

(New York, NY – Jan. 14, 2015) Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee this week will join Brittany Maynard’s widower, Dan Diaz, and his brother, Adrian Diaz, for the Diaz family’s first interviews since Brittany utilized Oregon’s death-with-dignity law on Nov. 1.

Some of the interviews will air Wed., Jan. 14, on the nationally syndicated The Meredith Vieira Show, Today (aired at 7:40am), MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, and will be posted on NBC.com. The other interviews will appear in the Jan. 26 issue of People magazine that hits newsstands in New York and Los Angeles on Wed., Jan. 14, and newsstands nationwide on Fri., Jan. 16, and be posted on People.com, and People’s daily online morning show, PEOPLENow.com.

Take action now to help move forward death with dignity legislation in your state. Click here.

A preview of the People interview is available now at: www.people.com/article/brittany-maynard-husband-dan-diaz-keeping-promise. The Today Show segment is available online at: www.today.com/health/brittany-maynards-husband-talks-about-letting-her-go-1D80424130. Interview highlights of The Meredith Vieira Show will be available online this afternoon at: www.meredithvieirashow.com. A preview is available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCKjtIOQjF8.

Coombs Lee and the Diaz brothers will ask death-with-dignity supporters to contact their state legislators via www.TheBrittanyFund.org and urge them to support bills to give mentally competent, terminally ill adults the option to access the medical practice of aid in dying. Compassion & Choices has been working with California Senators Lois Wolk and Bill Monning, and New York Senator Diane Savino to draft and introduce death-with-dignity bills this month. The bills would authorize dying adults to obtain a doctor’s prescription for medication that they can choose to take if their suffering becomes unbearable in their final days.

In addition, lawmakers have pledged to introduce similar bills in Washington, D.C., and at least 11 states: Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Brittany’s story also is galvanizing Compassion & Choices campaigns in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

“She wanted to become an advocate so that other people would not have to leave their home state,” Coombs Lee told the Today show. “Every video that Brittany posted had an enormous impact on the public. They were tweeted and shared and Facebooked all across the world. She was able to connect with people in a very personal way.”

“Dan is Brittany’s legacy made visible,” Coombs Lee told People. “We couldn’t do it without him.”

“This is the moment for action to advance death with dignity,” said Coombs Lee following the interviews. “Brittany Maynard recognized the injustice that the vast majority of American adults would have to leave their home state to access aid in dying. We can honor her memory by helping Brittany’s family fulfill her mission to make aid in dying an accessible medical practice for every adult in the United States, from California to New York.”

Americans believe, by a record 5-to-1 margin, (74% support vs. 14% oppose) that terminally ill adults – in their final days and with no chance for recovery – should have the option of aid in dying to end their suffering, according to a HealthDay/Harris Poll released last month. Currently, only Oregon and four other states authorize aid in dying: Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico.

“My preference would be not to be in front of any cameras,” Dan Diaz told People. “But this was one thing Brittany had asked, that we make it a reality in California. I want to keep my promise to her.”

“You don’t want to let go of your loved one,” Dan told The Meredith Vieira Show.  “But to suggest that she should suffer for me, for anyone, no. Here’s the person I love and I don’t want to see her go, but the seizure that morning [Nov. 1] was a reminder of what she was risking because what was coming next was losing her eyesight, becoming paralyzed, inability to speak, and she’d be essentially trapped in her own body.”

“It truly was the most peaceful experience that you could ever hope for when you talk about a person’s passing,” Dan told the Today show. “The suffering and … the torment and everything she had gone through … that was finally lifted.”

American physicians believe by a 23-percent margin (54% vs. 31%) that adults with an “incurable and terminal” disease should have the medical option of aid in dying, according to a recent online survey conducted by Medscape of 17,000 U.S. doctors representing 28 medical specialties.

“She [Brittany] planned everything out,” Adrian told the Today show. “She wanted specific people in that room for her which she called it a ring of love. If I were sick the way she was, I would want to die in my sleep.”

D.C. Health Foundation CEO Joins Nation’s Leading End-of-Life Choice Organization

Nicholas Simmonds Hired as External Affairs Chief at Compassion & Choices 

(Washington, DC – Jan. 6, 2014) Compassion & Choices has hired Nicholas Simmonds, a former foundation CEO, as its new Chief External Affairs Officer. An award-winning fundraising executive, he will oversee development, marketing and communications from the Washington, D.C., office of the national end-of-life choice organization.

“Nick’s dedication to our cause and deep understanding of philanthropy, marketing and communications will help us enter a new era of funding and visibility for the booming end-of-life choice movement,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney, former ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years before she coauthored the nation’s first death-with-dignity law in Oregon. “His 30 years of expertise will help us maximize our amazing opportunity to expand the growing support for end-of-life options.”

Simmonds most recently was CEO/President of Providence Health Foundation. It provides support for Providence Hospital, the longest continually operating hospital in Washington, D.C. Prior to that, he was Vice President of Development & Public Affairs for Charles E. Smith Life Communities in Rockville, Maryland. During his tenure there, he produced over $100 million in philanthropic revenues in 15 years.

“I am excited about this wonderful opportunity to join the organization that is the undisputed leader in advocating for end-of-life choice in our country,” said Simmonds. “I look forward to working with our dedicated staff to reform our healthcare system to ensure that all dying Americans can pass away peacefully. I want to help Compassion & Choices expand its reach to match the demand for autonomy at the end of life.”

Simmonds is a former president of the Washington DC Metro Chapter of Association of Fundraising Professionals, was named its Outstanding Fundraising Professional in 2007 and won the Campbell & Company AFP Award for Excellence in Fundraising in 2001. He earned a master’s degree in International Relations from Sussex University in Brighton, England. He also holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in International Relations & Political Science from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel.

About Compassion & Choices:

Compassion & Choices is the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life. Leading the end-of-life choice movement for more than 30 years, we support, educate and advocate. More information is available at: www.compassionandchoices.org.

New Jersey Lawmakers Moving Quickly on Death with Dignity Option

Key Senate Committee Passes Aid in Dying Measure

December 15, 2014 (Trenton, NJ) – A bill to authorize the medical option of aid in dying in New Jersey passed another hurdle today.  One week after an initial hearing on the legislation, the New Jersey Senate Heath, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee voted to release the bill without recommendation. The legislation can now be brought to the floor for a full Senate vote.

Today’s vote in favor of New Jerseyans’ rights to choose aid in dying comes on the heels of the passage of the bill in the full Assembly last month.

State Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney has joined Senator Nicholas P. Scutari as a prime sponsor of the legislation.

“The New Jersey legislature moved one step closer to honoring the will of the people and passing Death with Dignity legislation,” said Barbara Lee Coombs, President of Compassion & Choices. “We thank these lawmakers for moving deliberately to empower their constituents, and for their dedication to ensuring care and peace for people close to the end of life.” More

Supporters of end-of-life choices rally in Annapolis on Brittany Maynard’s 30th birthday.

By Chris Meacham

On Wednesday, November 19, Compassion & Choices supporters gathered at the State House in Annapolis, Maryland for a rally to honor the life and work of Brittany Maynard. The date also marked what would have been Brittany’s 30th birthday. The group called on lawmakers to pass legislation authorizing aid in dying for the terminally ill. WMAR Baltimore covered the event:

A balloon is released for a woman who gave herself a choice.  Brittany Maynard was celebrated in front of the statehouse in Annapolis on Wednesday, on what would have been her 30th birthday. Read more…

Brittany Maynard’s 30th Birthday Spurs National Call to Action for Death With Dignity

New “Call to Action” Video Narrated by Brittany Released

(Portland, OR – Nov. 19, 2014)  Compassion & Choices today launched a national initiative for expanded access to death with dignity on what would be Brittany Maynard’s 30th birthday. The organization released a new “call to action” video narrated by Brittany and featuring death-with-dignity activists from across the nation, including Anita Freeman of California, Sara Meyers of Connecticut and Dustin Hankinson of Montana. Brittany calls on all those touched by her story to contact their state lawmakers using an easy action tool at www.TheBrittanyFund.org, where the video will debut at 3pm ET.

Response to Brittany’s story, including from policymakers, proves the time is now to fix the nation’s unjust end-of-life healthcare system. The New Jersey Assembly passed an aid-in-dying bill last Thursday, 12 days after her death. At least one lawmaker who decided to support the bill cited Brittany’s story during the floor debate as a deciding factor: Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon.  In her honor, legislators in California and at least 11 other states have pledged to introduce bills that authorize death with dignity. The other states include: Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-WY), who plans to introduce a death-with-dignity bill, and Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-PA), who introduced a death-with-dignity bill on Oct. 15 — nine days after Brittany’s story broke — are among the lawmakers whom Brittany inspired. Rep. Rozzi’s father died of brain cancer, as Brittany did.

“As we mark what would be her 30th birthday, we recall Brittany’s selfless efforts to help ensure that other dying Americans get access to the death-with-dignity choice,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, Compassion & Choices president and an attorney who co-authored Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, which Brittany Maynard utilized. “Brittany carried a torch of human freedom this far. We must carry it to the finish line. We ask supporters to use every communication channel to tell their lawmakers to support death with dignity.”

“I hope for the sake of other American citizens all these people that I’m speaking to that I’ve never met, that I’ll never meet, that this choice be extended to you, that this right.  That we mobilize, that we vocalize, that we start to talk about it,” says Brittany in the video, which was recorded Aug. 2.

“I know my family will continue to carry this torch along for me, that they all believe in the importance of what I’m doing,” concluded Brittany in the video. “If there’s one message to come away from everything that I’ve been through, it is no matter what life kind of presents you with, is never be afraid to use your own voice. And even if you are uncertain, even if your voice is shaking, ask the questions you want to ask, speak up for yourself, advocate.”

A panel of experts, including Reps. Rozzi and Zwonitzer, discussed nationwide momentum to expand access for terminally ill adults to the medical practice of aid in dying during a national press conference call on Nov. 19.