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

Death with Dignity

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.

Connecticut Residents Turn Out to Testify for Aid-in-Dying Law in Legislature

-Over 100 Grassroots Supporters at Capitol
-State Representative Kelly Luxenberg Tells Personal Story in Hearing
-Bill Has 16 Co-Sponsors, Support from Judiciary Chairman Eric Coleman, Attorney General George Jepsen, and Comptroller Kevin Lembo

March 18, 2015 (Hartford, CT) – Today, supporters of aid in dying joined with legislators to demonstrate their support for H.B. No. 7015, An Act Concerning Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Patients, in the Judiciary Committee. Among those in attendance were longtime state lobbyist Barry Williams who has advanced Parkinson’s disease, former state senator Mary Anne Handley, as well as Philadelphia nurse Barbara Mancini and Litchfield resident Hunt Williams whose personal stories have made national news.

The bill has continued to gain political momentum. A March 11th Quinnipiac poll found voters support the legislation 63 – 31 percent, up from last year’s poll on the same question, including majorities in all party, age and gender groups.

“We are gaining traction and continuing to build a statewide grassroots movement,” said Tim Appleton, Connecticut Campaign Director for Compassion & Choices.

The raised bill currently has 16 House and Senate sponsors. It is modeled after legislation in Oregon and other states where aid in dying has been proven to be good policy and medical practice with a combined 30 years of safe implementation. It allows a qualified, terminally ill and mentally competent adult to request and obtain a prescription from their physician for medication that the patient can self-administer to bring about a peaceful and humane death. Besides Oregon, aid in dying is authorized in Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico.

State Representative Kelly Luxenberg testified that it was her personal family experiences that have made her a passionate supporter of this issue. “This is about giving people the choice, everyone should have the right to control how they want to live or die,” says Luxenberg. (Testimony below)

Bills were raised here in 2013 and 2014, each year gaining more support among lawmakers. Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Bloomfield, is the lead sponsor this year. Additionally, the Attorney General George Jepsen and State Comptroller Kevin Lembo have publicly endorsed medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults.

“We have learned a lot about the need for compassionate end-of-life choice, the support for it in the community and how such legislation can be safely implemented here,” Senator Coleman said.

Additional sponsors of the bill include Senators Beth Bye (West Hartford), Gary Winfield (New Haven); and Representatives James Albis (East Haven), David Alexander (Enfield), David Baram (Bloomfield), Andrew Fleischman (West Hartford), Jack Hennessey (Bridgeport), Roland Lemar (North Haven), Rick Lopes (New Britain), Kelly Luxenberg (Manchester), Kim Rose (Milford), Phil Miller (Ivoryton), Russ Morin (Wethersfield), Jonathan Steinberg (Westport), and Toni Walker (New Haven).

“I support this legislation because I want this choice,” Comptroller Kevin Lembo said. “Whether or not I exercise my choice would be decided among me, my family, and my physician.”

Today’s hearing follows last Sunday’s New York Times editorial advocating that state lawmakers make aid in dying available to their residents. The editors point to the thoroughly and publicly documented 18-year record in Oregon, where aid in dying has worked as intended, giving peace of mind to dying Oregonians, without any cases of abuse or coercion.

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and at least 15 states have introduced bills to authorize the medical option of aid in dying since November when Compassion & Choices launched a nationwide campaign in honor of Brittany Maynard. The momentum also is galvanizing Compassion & Choices campaigns to pass bills authorizing aid in dying in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Colorado and California and to defend this legally recognized option in Montana, New Mexico and Vermont.

Compassion & Choices, the oldest and largest national non-profit organization committed to improving care and expanding choice at the end of life, is a leading advocate of aid-in-dying legislation in New York and around the country.

Below is a list of people testifying today:

1 Barry Williams – Glastonbury Lobbyist with Advanced Parkinson Disease
2 Charles Silbert – Ridgefield Cancer Patient
3 Karina Danvers – New Haven HIV/AIDS Patient
4 Barbara Mancini – Philadelphia Criminally Prosecuted
5 Huntington Williams – Cornwall Criminally Prosecuted
6 David McGuire – ACLU Attorney
7 Jennifer Siskind – Personal story
8 Herb Ross, MD – Lyme Physician
9 Tollie Miller – Bloomfield Story of death of friend
10 Rev. Barbara Fast – Greenwich Minister Unitarian
11 Gail Southard Canzano, PhD – West Hartford Clinical Psychologist
12 Phyllis Ross – Lyme Supporter
13 Tim Appleton – S. Windsor Executive Dir. Compassion & Choices CT
Reading Testimony of Sara Meyers – ALS Patient
14 Linda Alexander, MD – Windsor Physician
15 Shannon Sanford, RN – Seymour Registered Nurse
16 Lindsey Pellino – Death of grandfather
17 Rev. Josh Pawelek – Glastonbury UU Minister
18 Vandelay Mandohar, MD – Middletown Psychiatrist
19 Mary Anne Handley – Manchester Former State Senator
20 Rev. Doug Peary – North Haven Story of death of loved ones
21 Michael Mizzone – Orange ALS Patient
22 Rev. Jeanne Lloyd – Woodbury UU Minister
23 Max Fey – Farmington Story of death of father
24 Duane Leuders – Simsbury Attorney
25 Jane Zajac – Windsor Emphysema Patient
26 Debra Adamson – Death of mother
27 Joe Hoydilla – Middletown Death of Father from skin cancer
28 Thomas Platt – Hamden Roommate committed suicide
29 Ed Crocco – Higganum Supporter
30 Cynara Stites – Mansfield ACLU Board Member
31 Adlyn Lowenthal – West Hartford Supporter/activist
32 Sara Hambrick – S. Windsor Supporter/activist
33 Susan Duclos – Wallingford Retired Nurse
34 Douglas Wade – Bridgeport Mother died/terminal illness
35 Jody Rodiger – Manchester Faith leader
36 Judy Principi – Burlington Lost loved one to ALS
37 James Principi – Burlington See above
38 Steve Karp – NASW
39 Tessa Marquis – Milford Activist
40 Alice Oliver – Milford Supporter
41 Joan Geetter – Bloomfield Supporter
42 Al Smith – Brookfield Supporter
43 Corrinne Ferola – Bristol Supporter
44 Klaus Kingstorf – Manchester Supporter
45 Martin Legault – Marlborough Supporter
46 Michelle Maitland – East Hartford Supporter
47 Pamela Wheeler – Supporter
48 Stanley Greenberg – Manchester Humanist
49 Vic Marquis – Killingley Supporter
50 Wendy Wescott – Wesport Supporter
51 Patrice Jaskiewicz – Gales Ferry Supporter
52 James Brennan – Waterbury Supporter
53 Donna Scanlon – East Hampton Supporter
54 Judith Passmore – Middletown Supporter

-Testimony of State Rep. Kelly Luxenberg – Representing Manchester’s 12th District

Senator Coleman, Representative Tong, Senator Kissel, Representative Rebimbas and esteemed members of the Judiciary committee, I am State Representative Kelly Luxenberg and I am here today to speak in favor of House Bill 7015 AN ACT CONCERNING AID IN DYING FOR TERMINALLY ILL PATIENTS.

I know that this is a tough issue for many of us.  Even though I sit here before you today as a co-sponsor of this important piece of legislation, I didn’t always feel that way; I have had my doubts even over the last few years. When I started to think about it as a matter of individual choice, I realized what a personal and intimate decision it was….

I also draw my support from a deeply personal experience…

Three weeks before my parents got married, my athletic, exuberant father was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s Disease.   Less than a decade later, he was laid off as an executive vice president at a bank and forced onto disability, he was maxed out on the medications that mitigate  his symptoms, he no longer could drive because he fell asleep at the wheel more than once, and he had to have me, his nine-year old daughter, pull him up from chairs, and help him in ways that no child should have to help a parent.  As his central nervous system progressively failed him, his dignity was lost.

A last hope and prayer came with the new pallidotomy operation in the mid-90s, but all was lost when the surgeon took experimental liberties that cost my father the ability to swallow and require a feeding tube, and prevented him from helping me with even the easiest of sixth grade math assignments.

Three months from the surgery that was supposed to give him new life, he was dead. It wasn’t the Parkinson’s or the operation that killed him per se, he had taken matters into his own hands.  His death was unattractive and undignified – he drowned in our local reservoir. He never learned to swim and was intensely fearful of the water, so there is an even sadder irony to the way he chose to die.  The next day, our local newspaper ran the front cover with his lifeless body freshly pulled from the water.

He indicated that he had no other choice to do what he did that day for the Parkinson’s and operation had robbed him of so much.

For years, I convinced myself his death was an accident, and he never would have chosen that kind of.
It wasn’t until my early 20s that I found peace with his death thinking he did have a choice and that he was very much in control that day, not that it was his unsteady gait – typical of the Parkinson’s – that caused him to slip multiple times and fall to his death. It was the last thing he was in control everything the last two decades of his life were involuntary; that he wasn’t as cold, terrified and alone as I had always imagined.

I am here before you today because even though death with dignity wouldn’t have applied to my father at that point in time, it is imperative that we give people choices at the end of their lives.  We have fought for decades to have the right to make our own decisions over our own bodies and this is no different – this is an issue all about choice, it doesn’t mandate any kind of action.

Eventually the Parkinson’s would have taken my father’s life, but what a different experience the end could have been for him, and for me as a survivor.  It only added another layer of pain for me and my family to never have closure.

Giving power back to people who have lost control over their bodies should not be determined by those of us who have not suffered serious mental or physical degradation.  People don’t like to talk about death, but it’s inevitable, and I hope in the end that I have the choice to decide what is right for me and my family.   Parkinson’s stripped my father of a life with dignity. Wouldn’t it have been great if in death his dignity could be regained?

Another Attempt to Criminalize Doctors Who Provide Aid in Dying Rejected by Montana Lawmakers

Compassion & Choices Praises Legislature for Preserving End-of-Life Freedoms

(Helena, MT – March 13, 2015) Compassion & Choices praised the Montana House for rejecting a second bill in four weeks that would have criminalized writing a prescription for aid-in-dying medication to a terminally ill adult who wants that option to end their suffering. The bill, which opponents call “The Physician Imprisonment Act” because it would have imprisoned a doctor for up to 10 years for this medical practice, was one of several in recent years intended to gut the state Supreme Court’s 2009 ruling in Baxter v. Montana.

A bipartisan group of legislators voted 50-50 to defeat the former bill, HB477, after the Montana House Judiciary Committee had approved it on Friday, Feb. 20. On Feb. 17, the Montana House rejected a bill that would have charged a doctor with homicide for writing a prescription for aid-in-dying medication.

“We have been fighting frivolous bills like this for too long,” said Emily Bentley, Compassion & Choices Montana Campaign Manager. “Our courts have told us that existing state law protects end-of-life autonomy, and the overwhelming majority of Montanans agree. It’s time for these opponents of freedom to move on.”

A 2013 poll showed 69% of Montana voters support authorizing physicians to write prescriptions for aid-in-dying medication.

In 2009, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in Baxter v. Montana that state law authorizes physicians to prescribe aid-in-dying medication to a terminally ill adult who requests it. The Court said: “The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act clearly provides that terminally ill patients are entitled to autonomous end-of-life decisions.” The court required four safeguards: The patient must be 1) terminally ill, 2) mentally competent, 3) over 18 years old, and 4) must self-administer the medication. The court did not rule one way or the other on constitutional grounds. Five years later, many doctors across Montana have written aid-in-dying prescriptions for terminally ill people who request it.

Brittany Maynard Family, Compassion & Choices Making End-of-Life Care Progress

Aid-in-Dying Bills Introduced in 16 Legislatures, Hearings Proceeding 

(Portland, OR – March 10, 2015) Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and at least 15 states have introduced bills to authorize the medical option of aid in dying since Compassion & Choices released a video-recorded call to action by Brittany Maynard on Nov. 19, the same day that would have been her 30th birthday. Currently, only five states – Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico – authorize this medical practice.

All of the bills were introduced during a seven-week period between Jan. 8 and Feb. 24 in states across the political spectrum. They include five blue states (California, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island), four purple states (Colorado, Iowa, Montana, Wisconsin) and six red states (Alaska, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming). Today, March 10, there is a hearing scheduled on the Maryland legislation before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Next Monday, March 16, a hearing is scheduled on the Connecticut bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In addition, aid-in-dying bills re-introduced in Connecticut and Massachusetts this year had 16 and 24 more sponsors, respectively, than when they were introduced last year. Finally, last November, the New Jersey Assembly passed an aid-in-dying bill on a bipartisan vote, only 12 days after Brittany died.

“This tidal wave of action and bill introductions is a testament to our powerful partnership with Brittany Maynard’s family to fulfill her mission to make aid in dying an authorized medical option for dying adults throughout America,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney and former ER and ICU nurse who coauthored the Oregon death-with-dignity law that Maynard utilized to end her agonizing suffering from terminal brain cancer.

“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, this right. That we mobilize, that we vocalize, that we start to talk about it,” said Brittany in her call-to-action video posted at www.TheBrittanyFund.org. “I know my family will continue to carry this torch along for me”

Since then, Brittany’s husband, Dan Diaz, and her mother, Debbie Ziegler, have done numerous interviews promoting the cause. Debbie Ziegler recently appeared on the nationally syndicated Dr. Oz Show, and Dan Diaz was interviewed for Oprah Winfrey Network’s Where Are They Now? show that will air this Sunday, March 15, at 9 p.m. ET.

“Brittany’s wish is coming true. The tireless, very public advocacy of her husband, Dan Diaz, and mother, Debbie Ziegler, is a major reason for our auspicious campaign launch since Brittany’s call to action,” Coombs Lee said. “Now we urge Brittany’s thousands of supporters to visit www.TheBrittanyFund.org so they can tell their state legislators to pass these aid-in-dying bills in her honor.”

To date, over five million people have visited the www.TheBrittanyFund.org, and more than 50,000 people have sent letters urging state lawmakers to pass legislation to authorize medical aid in dying for mentally competent, terminally ill adults.

The jurisdictions, bill names and introduction dates in 2015 are listed below in chronological order.

Missouri Missouri Death With Dignity Act (HB 307) Jan. 8, 2015
Washington, D.C. Death with Dignity Act of 2015 (B21-0038) Jan 14, 2015
California End-of-Life Option Act (SB 128) Jan. 20, 2015
Iowa Iowa Death with Dignity Act (HF 65) Jan. 21, 2015
Montana Montana Death with Dignity Act (SB 202) Jan. 21, 2015
Wyoming Death With Dignity (HB 0119) Jan. 22, 2015
Connecticut Compassionate Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (SB 668) Jan. 23, 2015
Colorado Colorado Death with Dignity Act (HB 15-135) Jan. 27, 2015
Hawaii Death With Dignity (HB 1255) Jan. 28, 2015
Kansas Kansas Death with Dignity Act (HB 2150) Jan. 28, 2015
Oklahoma Oklahoma Death With Dignity Act (HB 1673/HB 1021) Feb. 2, 2015
Maryland Death With Dignity Act (SB 676) Feb. 6, 2015
Alaska Voluntary Termination of Life (HB 99) Feb. 9, 2015
Wisconsin SB 128 Feb. 11, 2015
Rhode Island Lila Manfield Sapinsley Compassionate Care Act (H 5507) Feb. 12, 2015
New York New York End-of-Life Options Act (S3685/AO2129) Feb. 13, 2015
Utah Utah Death With Dignity Act (HB 391) Feb. 24, 2015

Citizen Lobby Day for Aid-in-Dying Legislation in Annapolis, Organized by Compassion & Choices

Annapolis, MD — Compassion & Choices brought one hundred death-with-dignity supporters to Annapolis to meet with their representatives and ask them to vote for The Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Death With Dignity Act, which was recently introduced in the state senate by Sen. Ron Young and in the state house by Del. Shane Pendergrass. These two lawmakers make their first joint appearance today at a press conference about the bill, joined by other Marylanders who support the legislation.

The Senate and House bills currently have 45 sponsors combined. A new Goucher University Poll shows 60 percent of Marylanders support the legislation.

“Maryland’s grassroots is giving this legislation amazing momentum,” says Brandi Alexander, Compassion & Choices Regional Campaign and Outreach Manager for Maryland. “The demand for end-of-life options is why I am spending so much time here, working with our volunteers to make death with dignity a reality.”

The Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Death With Dignity Act is modeled on Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which was implemented in 1998. It would allow a terminally ill adult who is mentally competent to request and obtain a prescription that can be self-administered to bring about a peaceful and humane death should suffering become unbearable. It is a patient-directed medical practice called aid in dying, an end-of-life option in addition to hospice and palliative care. The law has worked for 17 years without any cases of abuse, misuse or coercion in Oregon. A similar law has been in effect in Washington State since 2009 and in Vermont since 2013.

The lobby day takes place in advance of two scheduled hearings for the legislation: March 6, at 1:00 p.m., HB1021 Judiciary & Health and Government Affairs Committees in the House of Delegates; March 10 at 1:00 PM, SB 676 Judicial Proceedings Committee in the Senate. Maryland is one of 27 states including the District of Columbia considering death-with-dignity legislation in 2015.