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

Death with Dignity

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.


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.


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?








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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.

California Aid-in-Dying Bill Still Under Consideration

Supporters Feel Optimistic about Bill Despite Hearing Postponement


(Sacramento, CA – July 7, 2015) The authors of a bill that would allow terminally ill adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication to shorten their dying process decided not to present it, SB 128, before the Assembly Health Committee to give Assemblymembers more time to consider the bill.

“SB 128 is still alive and well, even though we weren’t ready for it to be heard before the Assembly Health Committee,” said Compassion & Choices California Campaign Director Toni Broaddus. “Seven out of every ten California voters want to see this bill become law, so we will not stop until we make that happen.”

A bipartisan poll last month showed 69 percent of California voters, including 70 percent of Latinos and 60 percent of Catholics, support SB 128, also known as the End of Life Option Act. The bill is authored by Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning, Senate Majority Whip Lois Wolk and Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman.

The End of Life Option Act was inspired by the public advocacy of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old Californian with terminal brain cancer. She had to move to Oregon last year to utilize its death-with-dignity law to end her unbearable suffering so she could die peacefully.

“This issue is urgent for dying Californians like Jennifer Glass, Christy O’Donnell, Michael Saum and hundreds of others who are suffering unbearably at the end of their lives,” added Broaddus.  “We are redoubling our commitment to passing the End of Life Option Act for all other Californians who want and need the option of medical aid in dying.”

The End of Life Option Act was closely modeled after the death-with-dignity law in Oregon, which has worked well for 17 years, without a single documented case of abuse or coercion. Four other states authorize the option of medical aid in dying: Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico.

“This battle is far from over,” added Broaddus. “We owe it to Brittany Maynard’s family and terminally ill Californians to pursue every available path to give them relief from unbearable suffering.”

Olmos Joins Prominent Latino Voices Endorsing California Death-With-Dignity Bill

By Maureen Kennedy

Actor/Director Edward James Olmos has added his voice to the community of Latino supporters of California’s End of Life Option Act (SB 128). Best known for his Academy Award-nominated performance as renowned educator Jaime Escalante in the 1988 film Stand and Deliver, Olmos is a veteran social activist. He founded Latino Public Broadcasting, served as an international ambassador for UNICEF and helped clean up the streets of Los Angeles after the Rodney King riots.

In a letter sent July 1, Olmos urged all Assembly members to support SB 128. Olmos’ letter is particularly timely because six Latino Legislative Caucus members serve on the 19-member Assembly Health Committee that is scheduled to vote on the bill on July 7. Olmos’ letter concludes:

“Americans are free to choose how they live—and when the time comes, how they die. All Americans should be able to make this private, personal decision—in consultation with their doctor and family—free from government interference. 

We need your vote on SB 128. Can I count on you to support this legislation?”

Olmos joins other prominent Latino activists who support the End of Life Option Act, including legendary labor leader Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers with César Chávez, and actor Mauricio Ochmann from the popular Telemundo telenovela “El Señor de los Cielos.”

Nearly seven in ten California voters (69%), including 70 percent of Latinos and 60 percent of Catholics, support SB 128, according to a bipartisan poll conducted June 16-21 by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research and Probolsky Research.

You can read entire text of Olmos’ letter by clicking here.

You can read full results from the bipartisan poll by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research and Probolsky Research by clicking here.