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

General News

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

California Senate Committee Moves to Assess Budget Impact of Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill

Supporters of Legislation Express Confidence Appropriations Committee Will Approve Bill Soon

(Los Angeles, CA – May 11, 2015) Supporters of a California bill that would allow terminally ill adults the option of medical aid in dying are confident the Senate Appropriations Committee will approve it after the committee today moved the bill for a routine assessment of its budget impact.

After a hearing attended by hundreds of bill supporters, the committee moved to place the legislation, called the End of Life Option Act (SB 128), in a “suspense file” pending an assessment of its fiscal impact on the state’s General Fund. SB 128 would give mentally competent, terminally ill adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can take to die painlessly and peacefully to end unbearable pain and suffering in their final days.

“We are very optimistic that End of Life Option Act will clear this final committee hurdle before a Senate vote because similar legislation in other states has had minimal budgetary impact,” said Compassion & Choices California Campaign Director Toni Broaddus. “Clearly, legislators are hearing the voices of terminally ill Californians in desperate need of more end-of-life options.”

If the Senate Appropriations Committee approves SB 128, it would be eligible for a vote on the Senate floor. The deadline to pass bills originating in the Senate is June 5. If the Senate passes the legislation, it will then be sent to the Assembly, where the deadline pass it is Sept. 11.

The End of Life Option Act is closely modeled after the death-with-dignity law in Oregon, which has worked well for 17 years, without a single documented case of abuse or coercion. Currently, four other states authorize medical aid in dying: Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico. These states’ aid-in-dying policies have been proven to be good, safe medical practice.

California voters support the medical option of aid in dying by more than a 2-1 margin (64 percent vs. 24 percent). Yet, two decades after Oregon voters passed our nation’s first death-with-dignity law in 1997, California still has not authorized this end-of-life option. Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old Californian who had terminal brain cancer, brought international attention to this issue when she had to move to Oregon to utilize its death-with-dignity law last November. 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.

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

End-of-Life Liberty Survives Another Legislative Session; In a Victory for Terminally Ill Montanans, Aid in Dying Remains a Medical Option

Compassion & Choices Praises Legislature for Respecting Dying Montanans’ Independence as It Adjourns for the Session

(Helena, MT – April 28, 2015) By adjourning today, the third legislative body in six years officially rejected further attempts to jail doctors for writing aid-in-dying prescriptions for terminally ill adults who wish to end their suffering at the end of life. This medical option was authorized for Montanans by a 2009 state Supreme Court ruling in Baxter v. Montana. Since that ruling, multiple attempts have been made by a small group of lawmakers to repeal the end-of-life options the court made available. Each time, a bipartisan majority of legislators has defeated their effort as they did today, delivering a victory for Montanans.

“Enough,” said Emily Bentley, Compassion & Choices Montana campaign manager. “Our courts have told us that end-of-life autonomy is protected under state law, and aid in dying is working exactly as intended for Montanans. It has given peace of mind to so many whose worlds were turned upside down by a terminal prognosis.”

Bentley thanked the bipartisan majority of lawmakers for “respecting the rule of law and trusting Montanans to make their own medical decisions.” She implored opponents, “Stop trying to overrule public opinion and our judiciary. Stop introducing these intrusive, oppressive bills.”

Despite a series of efforts to criminalize medical aid in dying this session, the legislature adjourned on April 28, 2015 without passing HB477 or a similar bill, HB328: “The Physician Imprisonment Acts.” There were a total of three hearings, three committee votes and four floor votes. More

Jeb Bush’s Suggestion to Require Medicare Recipients to Complete Advance Directives Called “Step in Right Direction”

Compassion & Choices Says Enforcement of Advance Directives Is Better Solution 

(Portland, OR – April 17, 2015) Likely GOP presidential contender Jeb Bush’s suggestion to require Medicare recipients to complete an advance directive is a step in the right direction, according to Compassion & Choices, the nation’s leading end-of-life choice organization.

Bush made the suggestion today in Manchester, NH, while defending his role as Florida governor to keep alive a brain-dead woman, Terry Schiavo. Her family battled over whether she would continue to receive artificial feeding after being in a vegetative state for 15 years.

But Compassion & Choices proposes an alternative solution: providing incentives to Medicare beneficiaries to complete advance directives and discuss their end-of-life wishes with healthcare providers, as well as denying payment to healthcare providers who fail to honor patients’ end-of-life wishes.

“We favor a carrot-and-stick approach because without an enforcement mechanism, advance directives often are ignored,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney who was an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years. “Terry Schiavo was a young woman, so her case is exhibit A of why adults of all ages should complete an advance directive and discuss their end-of-life wishes with their loved ones.”

One out of four older Americans say that either they or a family member have experienced excessive or unwanted medical treatment, the equivalent of about 25 million people, according to a poll last year conducted by the research division of Purple Strategies, one of the top-five most accurate polling firms in the 2012 election.

The Compassion & Choices website allows users to access advance directives for every state: www.compassionandchoices.org/what-we-do/advance-directive/.