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

Death with Dignity

Calif. Medical Assoc. Praised for Dropping 28-Year Opposition to Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill

C&C President Barbara Coombs Lee

By Sean Crowley

Compassion & Choices today praised the California Medical Association for dropping its decades-long opposition to legislation that would protect physicians from criminal prosecution for providing terminally ill adults with the option of medical aid in dying.

CMA’s announcement states that it is “the first state medical association in the nation to change its position on the long-debated issue of physician aid in dying” by taking a ‘neutral’ position on the End of Life Option Act (SB 128). It also marks the first time CMA has not opposed such legislation since 1987.

The CMA’s president said: “it’s up to the patient and their physician to choose the course of treatment best suited for the situation – and CMA’s new position on physician aid in dying allows for that.” The timing of this announcement is important because the deadline for the Senate to pass the End of Life Option Act is June 5, only two weeks away. If the Senate passes the bill, the deadline in the Assembly to pass it is Sept. 11.

Brittany Maynard and husband, Dan Diaz

“The California Medical Association’s new ‘neutral’ position on medical aid in dying is a major milestone because its prior opposition to this legitimate medical practice doomed previous bills,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an ER and ICU nurse for 25 years before she became an attorney and coauthored the Oregon Death with Dignity Act that is the model for SB 128. “We are seeing an enormous shift among medical organizations that is more reflective of the opinion of practicing physicians. This shift helps advance medical aid-in-dying legislation in California and throughout the nation.”

“With deep appreciation, I thank the California Medical Association for showing its leadership and wisdom in adopting its neutral policy stance,” said Dan Diaz, Brittany Maynard’s husband.  “It supports Brittany’s position: ‘This decision is mine to make, mine alone.”

Debbie Ziegler and her daughter, Brittany

“After months of research and collaboration, the California Medical Association has chosen to adopt a forward thinking, medically sound policy that will further the ability of California doctors  to properly treat terminally ill patients. Today, I strongly feel my daughter, Brittany Maynard, smiling down on her beloved home state, and I am confident that California legislators will take note of this important message from the CMA as they move forward in their efforts to pass Senate Bill 128, the California End of Life Option Act. Thank you to the CMA from the bottom of my mother’s heart,” said Deborah Ziegler, Brittany’s Maynard’s mother.

“As I’m now in bed nauseous and in pain from chemo, the CMA’s new position warmed my heart and was the highlight of my day,” said terminally ill Christy O’Donnell, the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit Compassion & Choices filed on her behalf last week asserting that the California state constitution and existing state law allow medical aid in dying. “I was proud that my fellow Californians in the CMA chose to issue an opinion that now accurately reflects the medical needs and desires of the people of this state.”

Christy O’Donnell and daughter, Bailey

American physicians believe by a 23 percent margin (54% vs. 31%) that patients with an “incurable and terminal” disease should have the option of medical aid in dying, according to a 2014 Medscape survey of 17,000 U.S. doctors representing 28 medical specialties. The previous Medscape survey in 2010 showed physicians supported medical aid in dying by only a five percent margin (46% vs. 41%).

A significant number of individual doctors and medical groups support medical aid in dying, including the American Nurses Association/California, American Public Health Association, American College of Legal Medicine, American Women’s Medical Association, Gay & Lesbian Medical Association, and American Medical Student Association.

Read the CMA press release by clicking here.

 

Dying Single Mom Leads Suit Asserting Calif. Law Allows Aid in Dying

New YouTube Video Released of Woman Spending Final Days to Bring Peaceful Endings to Others

(San Diego, CA – May 18, 2015) Compassion & Choices filed suit on Friday on behalf of three Californians with terminal or advanced diseases and a physician asserting that the California constitution and existing state law allow the medical practice of aid in dying. Medical aid in dying gives mentally competent, terminally ill adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can take in their final days to end their dying process painlessly and peacefully, ending unbearable pain and suffering.

“Some dying people face unbearable suffering in their final days that even the best hospice and palliative care cannot relieve,” said Compassion & Choices National Director of Legal Advocacy Kevin Díaz, who also worked with death-with-dignity advocate Brittany Maynard. “As Brittany Maynard recognized, these people desperately need the option of medical aid in dying so they can die painlessly, peacefully in their sleep – and they need it now – before it’s too late.”

In conjunction with filing the suit in California Superior Court in San Diego County, Compassion & Choices released a new video featuring Christy O’Donnell, the lead plaintiff, who has a terminal prognosis of less than six months to live. She is a Christian, Republican civil rights attorney who lives in Santa Clarita and is a former sergeant in the LAPD. Despite receiving chemotherapy every week for the last nine months, O’Donnell’s physicians have told her that she will likely die painfully within the next few months from lung cancer that has spread to tumors in her brain, spine, ribs and liver. The video of her story is posted at: www.compassionandchoices.org/new-litigation-in-california and https://youtu.be/ZKnrjK8N5q4. More

LA City Council Passes Resolution to Support State Aid in Dying Bill

Adds to Momentum Behind End of Life Option Act Inspired by Brittany Maynard 

(Los Angeles, CA – May 6, 2015) Compassion & Choices praised the Los Angeles City Council for unanimously passing a resolution today to support the End of Life Option Act (SB 128) currently being considered in the state legislature.

The bill would allow mentally competent, terminally ill adults the option to request a prescription from a doctor for medication that they could take to die peacefully if their suffering becomes unbearable. Los Angeles is the largest jurisdiction in California to pass such a resolution, but not the first. So far, the City of West Hollywood, Cathedral City, Santa Barbara County, Alameda County, Santa Cruz County and Mar Vista Community have all endorsed the End of Life Option Act.

“This is another victory that creates a pathway for the passage of end of life options in the Golden State,” said Toni Broaddus, California Campaign Director. “All Californians should have the option, together with their families, their doctors and their faith, to make the end-of-life decisions that are right for them in the final stages of a terminal illness.”

The passage of the City Council resolution comes a few weeks after the End of Life Option Act SB 128 cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Health Committee in Sacramento. The next vote on the California bill will take place in the Appropriations Committee, after which it goes on to consideration by the full senate. More

Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill Clears Senate Judiciary Committee in California

Second Hearing on Bill Inspired by Brittany Maynard Draws Hundreds of Supporters

(Sacramento, CA – April 7, 2015) Compassion & Choices today applauded the California Senate Judiciary Committee for approving the End of Life Option Act (SB 128). This is the second legislative victory for the bill, which would allow terminally ill Californians the option to request a prescription from their doctor to painlessly and peacefully shorten their dying process.

The passage of the California bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee comes just two weeks after the Senate Health Committee approved SB 128 by a 6-2 vote. The next vote on the bill will take place before the Senate Appropriations Committee prior to consideration by the full Senate.

“This is another historic accomplishment and a huge step for people who are dying from terminal illnesses in the Golden State,” said Toni Broaddus, California campaign director for Compassion & Choices. “It shows that legislators are hearing the voices of terminally ill Californians who are desperately needing options at the end of life.” More

California Senate Health Committee Approves Aid-in-Dying Legislation

First Legislative Action on Bill Inspired by Brittany Maynard Draws Hundreds of Supporters

(Sacramento, CA – March 25, 2015) Compassion & Choices today praised the California Senate Health Committee for approving the End-of-Life Option Act (SB 128) after a news conference with videotaped testimony from Brittany Maynard urging passage of such bills nationwide.

Before the afternoon hearing to vote on the bill, hundreds of supporters with colorful signs crowded the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to pass the End of Life Option Act, co-authored by Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning and Senate Majority Whip Lois Wolk. The next hearing on the legislation is scheduled for April 7 before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“The Senate Health Committee’s approval of the End of Life Option Act is a victory for Californians, who overwhelmingly support the option of aid in dying,” said Toni Broaddus, California campaign director for Compassion & Choices. “Thanks to the compelling testimony by families touched by this issue – including testimony recorded by Brittany Maynard before her death – the End of Life Option Act is one step closer to becoming law.”

Maynard, who was only 29 years old when diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, moved to Oregon to access its death-with-dignity law because her home state of California does not authorize aid in dying as an end-of-life option.

“Making aid in dying a crime creates undue hardships and suffering for many people who are terminally ill and suffering tremendously,” Maynard said in the video, which was recorded on Oct. 13, 2014, 19 days before she died on Nov. 1.  “It limits our options and deprives us of our ability to control how much pain and agony we endure before we pass.”

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 practice in her home state of California and nationwide. To date, more than five million people have visited the www.TheBrittanyFund.org, and more than 50,000 people have visited www.CompassionAndChoices.org to send letters urging state legislators to pass bills to authorize medical aid in dying for mentally competent, terminally ill adults.

Since Compassion & Choices released Brittany Maynard’s videotaped call to action to pass aid-in-dying bills in states nationwide on what would have been her 30th birthday, Nov. 19, lawmakers in Washington, DC, and at least 19 states have introduced bills to authorize the medical option of aid in dying.

National and state polls consistently show the vast majority of Americans across the demographic and political spectrum want to maintain their right to choose their medical treatment at the end of life. California voters support the medical option of aid in dying by more than a 2-1 margin (64 percent vs. 24 percent).

Watch Brittany’s full video testimony by clicking here.

Read the transcript of Brittany’s video testimony is by clicking here.

Watch the video of the entire news conference by clicking here.

Watch the Senate Health Committee hearing by clicking here.