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

Death with Dignity

16 California Newspapers Endorse Medical Aid-in-Dying Legislation

By Katie Wingo

Since Brittany Maynard’s story broke last October, 16 California newspapers have written 26 editorials endorsing medical aid-in-dying legislation or, more specifically, California’s own End of Life Option Act (SB 128). The major newspapers that have endorsed SB 128 include the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News, and Hoy a leading Spanish-language newspaper in Los Angeles.

Given the millions of online and offline readers of these 16 newspapers, the 26 editorials undoubtedly played a key role in the state Senate’s passage of SB 128 on June 4, and they should continue to influence legislators as the bill moves through the Assembly. The editorial headlines alone are strongly supportive:

“End of Life Option Act should be law of the land,” (Daily Democrat, Jan. 23, 2015)

“California needs a right-to-die law,” (Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2015)

“Brittany Maynard proved need for California Death with Dignity law,” (San Jose Mercury News, Nov. 17, 2014)

“Give the dying the right to pick how and when to die,” (The Sacramento Bee, Oct. 25, 2014)

The editorials are equally unambiguous in their support:

“We strongly urge the [Assembly Health] committee to approve the bill and send it on to the Assembly.” (Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2015)

“Legislators ought to approve the bill, so caring spouses such as Bill Bentinck don’t have to fear jail, and sick people like Brittany Maynard need not leave their homes and travel to Oregon to end their pain.” (The Fresno Bee, Jan. 21, 2015)

“We hope that common sense prevails so our legislators grant this option to people with terminal illnesses.” (Hoy, June 19, 2015)

“Californians overwhelmingly support this concept. Oregon voters approved it in a ballot measure 21 years ago, and zero problems have surfaced; it is seldom used, but it offers peace of mind to many.” (San Jose Mercury News, June 1, 2015)

We’re excited to see such far-reaching support. We are optimistic that the Assembly will continue pushing the End of Life Option Act forward, particularly in light of Compassion & Choices new, bipartisan poll showing that Californians from every demographic group, including a majority of Catholics and Latinos, support the bill.

To read more editorial headlines and excerpts, click here.

To read the summary of the new, bipartisan poll on SB 128, click here.

Washington Post Endorses Death-with-Dignity Legislation in States Across the Nation

The Washington Post Endorses Medical Aid in Dying

By Katie Wingo

Brittany Maynard

(June 22, 2015) One of the nation’s largest, leading daily newspapers, The Washington Post, published a rousing endorsement for medical aid in dying legislation nationwide in today’s paper. The editorial focused on bills in California, the District of Columbia, and Maryland modeled after the Oregon law. It cited the stories about Brittany Maynard, John Rehm (Diane Rehm’s husband), national polling data, and the work that Compassion & Choices has done this year to advance end-of-life legislation in DC and at least 24 states.

Five states have authorized aid in dying as an end-of-life option, with Oregon being the first state to do so 18 years ago. California’s End of Life Option Act just passed through the state senate and now the state Assembly is considering it.

“Closely watched are events in California. Ms. Maynard lived there before moving to Oregon and in her final days she videotaped a plea to lawmakers to adopt a law similar to Oregon’s and lobbied California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) by phone. After the state medical association recently dropped its long-standing opposition, a measure passed the state senate and is set for a hearing this month in the lower house; a lawsuit – a route successfully used in New Mexico and Montana – also is being pressed with the claim that both the state constitution and existing state law allow the medical practice of aid in dying.”

John and Diane Rehm

The editorial summarized the usual criticisms of death-with-dignity legislation and refuted the religious and moral objections and fears of abuse that opponents typically cite:

“Oregon’s 18 years of experience do not confirm any of these fears. Enacted in 1997, Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act allows terminally ill adults who are residents of the state to obtain and use prescriptions for self-administered lethal doses. Stringent protections include a life expectancy of less than six months, a finding of mental capability, a concurring opinion from a second doctor, mandatory discussion of hospice and other options, waiting periods and more.”

The Washington Post endorsement is absolutely spot-on in its conclusion:

“Death with dignity laws need to be carefully thought out, written and monitored. Oregon and the states that followed its example show that such care is possible. We hope the rest of the nation catches up with this humane option for life’s end.”

You can read the complete editorial by clicking here.


California Senate Passes First Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill in CA History

Supporters Optimistic Assembly Will Pass Bill by Sept. 11 Deadline

(Sacramento, CA – June 4, 2015) Compassion & Choices praised the California Senate today for passing a medical aid-in-dying bill for the first time in history, two weeks after the California Medical Association dropped its 28-year opposition to such legislation. The vote to approve the bill, the End of Life Option Act (SB 128), was 23 to 14. The bill now moves to the Assembly, where the deadline to pass the bill is Sept. 11.

SB 128 would allow mentally competent, terminally ill adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication that they could take to painlessly and peacefully shorten their dying process.

“This is a historic moment in our state for terminally ill Californians facing unbearable suffering who need and want more end-of-life options,” said Compassion & Choices California Campaign Director Toni Broaddus. “We are thrilled with the Senate vote and optimistic that the Assembly will respond to the voices of dying Californians by passing this legislation before its Sept. 11 deadline.”

The Senate floor vote comes seven months after the death of Brittany Maynard. The 29-year-old Californian with terminal brain cancer brought international attention to this issue when she had to move to Oregon to utilize its death-with-dignity law last year. 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.

“Brittany would be very proud to see the monumental shift occurring on the End of Life Option legislation,” said Dan Diaz, her widower. “Brittany and I respect those who might not pursue this option if they found themselves in a situation similar to hers. However, no one should stand in the way of someone who is suffering from a terminal illness from making the decisions that are best for them. An End of Life Option law will not result in more people dying; it will result in fewer people suffering.” More

“Doctors for Dignity” Ad Campaign Launched on Eve of AMA Convention

Compassion & Choices Cites New Calif. Med. Assoc. Policy, Growing Support for Death with Dignity

(Chicago, IL – June 3, 2015) On the eve of the American Medical Association’s annual convention starting Saturday, Compassion & Choices officially launched its “Doctors for Dignity” ad campaign to recruit physicians who support providing terminally ill adults with the full range of end-of-life medical options.

These options include death with dignity via the medical practice of aid in dying. It provides mentally competent, terminally ill adults with the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication that they can take to shorten their dying process if their suffering becomes unbearable.

Medical aid in dying currently is authorized in five states: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico. In addition, legislators in the District of Columbia, California and at least 23 other states introduced bills this year to authorize this end-of-life option.

The Doctors for Dignity advertising and grassroots recruitment campaign launch follows the announcement two weeks ago by the California Medical Association (CMA) that it is dropping its 28-year opposition to medical aid in dying. Since the CMA’s opposition doomed previous medical aid-in-dying bills in California, its new ‘neutral’ stance could result in the California Senate passing the End of Life Option Act before its legislative action deadline this Friday. More

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.