End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

General News

Compassion & Choices Praises Decision Not to Appeal Dismissal of Unjust “Assisted Suicide” Case

PA AG Urged Never to Prosecute Family Members Who Care for Dying Parents

(Harrisburg, Pa. – Feb. 24, 2014) Compassion & Choices praised today’s decision by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane not to appeal the dismissal of a felony “assisted suicide” charge against Philadelphia nurse Barbara Mancini. Compassion & Choices and Pain Treatment Topics filed an amicus brief in support of the defense’s motion to dismiss the case.

Mancini faced up to 10 years in prison if she was convicted for allegedly handing her dying 93-year-old father, Joe Yourshaw, his prescription morphine at his request four days before he died.

“This abuse of power caused extraordinary emotional and financial hardship for the Mancini family, violated Joe Yourshaw’s desire for a peaceful death and wasted taxpayer resources on an unsubstantiated case,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney who was an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years. “Attorney General Kane’s decision to accept this dismissal should serve as an important lesson to prosecutors nationwide: Government officials should not interfere in families’ private medical decisions.” More

Advocates Lobby For Aid In Dying Legislation in Connecticut

by Hugh McQuaid | CT News Junkie | Jan 29, 2014

HUGH MCQUAID PHOTO

Portraits of “aid-in-dying” supporters will be displayed in the State Capitol for two weeks beginning Friday as part of this year’s push for legislation to allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives.

Advocates of the proposal announced the new campaign to legalize the practice at a Wednesday morning press conference in the Legislative Office Building.

The photos will hang along the State Capitol concourse from Jan. 31 to Feb. 14 and feature advocates seeking legislation to permit terminally ill patients in Connecticut to end their lives with the help of a doctor. Each picture also will include a quote like “Quality of life includes peaceful death.”

Permitting a doctor to prescribe drugs to end the life of a terminally ill and mentally competent patient is legal in only a handful of states. Vermont, Oregon, Washington, and Montana all have laws permitting the practice. A court decision from earlier this month could make New Mexico the fifth state in which it is legal.

A group called Compassion and Choices Connecticut is hoping build on an effort that began in this state last year and see a bill raised during the legislative session that begins next week.

Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, and other lawmakers raised similar proposals last year which resulted in the first public hearing on the topic before Connecticut’s legislature. The hearing was widely attended and drew testimony from residents both for and against the law.

Ultimately the bill was never passed out of the Public Health Committee. Ritter said she’s urged the committee’s leadership to raise the bill again this year but that decision has yet to be made. Ritter and other supporters said it will take time for lawmakers to consider the issue. More

Texas Hospital Keeps Pregnant Body Functioning: Where Could This Lead?

By Barbara Coombs Lee, PA, FNP, JD, President Compassion & Choices

Marlise Munoz is dead. She died Nov. 26, probably of a pulmonary embolus, when she was 14 weeks pregnant. But John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas refuses to turn off the machines and let the family claim the body of their beloved.

This family is grieving a tragic loss. Their grief is all the more devastating because the firm wishes of their loved one – the woman paramedic, the daughter and wife who knew she never wanted to be maintained in an unconscious state – mean nothing. Texas law says life support may not be withdrawn from a pregnant patient and the hospital chooses to characterize Munoz’s dead body as a patient on life support.

Medical ethicists across the nation call it bad law and erroneous interpretation, but that doesn’t change this outrageous situation. More

Supporters Call for Passage of Compassionate Aid-in-Dying Legislation in Massachusetts

(Boston, Mass. – December 17, 2013) Supporters of legislation that would allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults to choose aid in dying (HB 1998) said today they welcome public debate of end-of-life issues. At today’s hearing, they urged lawmakers to pass legislation raised by the Joint Public Health Committee.

Mickey MacIntyre, Chief Program Officer of Compassion & Choices, was joined at today’s hearing by legislators, clergy members, doctors and nurses, and people who have faced difficult end-of-life decisions. MacIntyre said nearly 20 years of experience with aid-in-dying laws in Oregon, Washington, Montana and now Vermont, have delivered clear evidence the laws work as intended. None of the problems opponents predicted have materialized.

“Doctors, patients, clergy and the public support individuals’ autonomy when making end-of-life decisions,” Macintyre said. “This law helps give peace of mind to many but few ultimately need it. Massachusetts’s residents should enjoy freedom both in how they choose to live and, when the time comes, how they choose to die.”

“It is inhuman to subject people to unnecessary, painful medical procedures at the end of their lives against their wishes,” said Massachusetts State Representative Cory Atkins. “When people’s wishes are ignored, they are hooked up to machines and given strong medications with powerful side effects, making the final days of their lives unbearable. I support this bill because it would allow people to meet their end on their own terms, in comfort and surrounded by family.” More

New Research Shows Wide Support for Patients’ End-of-Life Rights

By Ashley Carson Cottingham

Recent news coverage about a poll from The Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life project missed the real news.

The poll showed that a majority or “two-thirds of Americans (66%) say there are at least some situations in which a patient should be allowed to die” and concluded “the share [of people] saying they would stop their treatments so they could die has remained about the same over the past 23 years.”

Yet, many subsequent headlines and stories about the poll focused on a slight increase in the percentage of Americans who say that doctors should do everything possible to keep patients alive.

This latter finding is not surprising given the growing chasm of access to healthcare between the wealthiest and poorest Americans over the last few decades. It is only natural that many Americans who are medically underserved or marginalized would want more medical care at the end of life when asked that question.  In addition, healthcare has seemed like a luxury to millions of Americans who cannot afford it. But thanks to implementation of the Affordable Care Act starting next month, they will expect to have access to more and better-quality healthcare.

Equally important is that everyone feels differently about how much medical treatment they want at the end of life, based on the specific circumstances they are facing.  These critical end-of-life decisions are complex and tightly connected to a variety of factors in a person’s life or situation.  For example, 57 percent of those polled say they would tell their doctors to stop treatment if they had a disease with no hope of improvement and were suffering. That figure is 52 percent when the same people were asked if they would want to stop receiving treatment if they had an incurable disease and were totally dependent on someone else for their care.

These numbers indicate that healthcare professionals providing realistic quality-of-life expectations to seriously ill patients about various treatment options are extremely influential in patients’ decisions about whether to pursue any treatment or not.  How often does a healthcare provider tell a patient that a particular treatment might result in the patient living in a nursing home, totally dependent on someone else for their care, even if the treatment is “successful”? More