End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Death with Dignity

Compassion & Choices Commends Life and Work of Aid-in-Dying Advocate, Former State Rep Ernest “Juggie” Heen

HONOLULU (July 2, 2013)—Compassion & Choices mourns the passing and lauds the work of former Hawaii state representative Ernest “Juggie” Heen, who died June 30 in Honolulu at age 82 after a long bout with cancer.

Juggie was a tireless advocate for end-of-life choice in the 50th state. He was instrumental in helping to launch the Compassion & Choices “Join Juggie” campaign to activate Hawaii’s constellation of laws that empower terminally ill, mentally competent patients to make their own decisions about end-of-life care, treatment for pain and aid in dying. Thanks to his efforts, he had a choice at the end of life—as do the thousands of Hawaii residents who have attended Compassion & Choices meetings and trainings, considered requests for aid in dying, or simply become more aware of their options for a peaceful death. More

Elder Abuse – A National Tragedy

By Ashley Carson Cottingham
National Field Director

On June 15, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we take time to acknowledge that an estimated 2.1 million older Americans fall victim to elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation each year. At Compassion & Choices we work diligently to protect older adults by upholding their rights at the end of life, sometimes when they are no longer able to speak for themselves. And this year we became proud members of the Elder Justice Coalition in Washington, D.C.

Elder abuse occurs on a regular basis, affecting some of the most vulnerable members of our society. What’s even worse is that for every reported case of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, experts believe there are five that go unreported. We must put an end to it.

Our work has exposed a form of elder abuse that is rarely discussed. It occurs when an older adult’s expressed wishes at the end of life are ignored, and as a result they are subjected to unwanted and invasive medical treatment. We believe this unwanted treatment absolutely constitutes elder abuse. More

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