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

General News

“Doc2Doc” Consultation Service to Combat Unwanted Medical Treatment Crisis

Free Service Helps Physicians Provide End-of-Life Care Patients Want 

(Washington, DC – June 15, 2015) Responding to reports that millions of older Americans receive unwanted medical treatment, Compassion & Choices today launched a new, free “Doc2Doc” consultation service to ensure patients receive the end-of-life care they want.

According to a 2014 poll conducted by Purple Insights, nearly one out of four Americans (24%) aged 50 or older ­— the equivalent of about 25 million people — say that either they or a family member have experienced excessive or unwanted medical treatment.

Better and more frequent doctor-patient communication could help prevent this excessive and unwanted medical treatment, according to a 2014 report by the Institute of Medicine, Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life.

To improve doctor-patient communication, Doc2Doc is specifically tailored to offer practicing physicians a free, confidential and readily available telephone consultation from a seasoned medical director with decades of experience in end-of-life medical care.

“As physicians, I think we all secretly wish we could solve all of our patients’ healthcare crises by ourselves,” said Dr. David Grube, a national medical director for Compassion & Choices and a former chairperson of the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners. “But I believe we all recognize that it is our duty to consider any tools that minimize our patients’ suffering, especially at the end of life when curative treatments are no longer a viable option.”

Doc2Doc is based on the premise that a physician’s informed communication with each patient about the full range of end-of-life options should center on the healthcare goals of the patient, not the doctor. This communication is necessary to weigh the benefits and burdens of various treatment options to align them with the patient’s values and priorities. Ideally, these conversations often are uncomfortable, but are critically important, and should begin soon after a diagnosis of terminal illness and continue throughout the progression of it.

“Doc2Doc may not be the answer for every physician or situation,” said Dr. Grube. “But I think it is a resource worth exploring for physicians who care for dying patients and want guidance about how they can best support their patients’ decisions.”

The Doc2Doc consultation may include answers about these end-of-life care options:

  • Hospice, palliative care and effective pain and symptom management.
  • How to follow current clinical practice guidelines.
  • How specific state laws affect end-of-life care.
  • How to communicate with patients, pharmacists and family members.
  • What to expect in a patient-controlled death.
  • How to handle patients’ inquiries or requests concerning withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment.
  • How to handle a badly suffering, terminally ill patient’s request for assistance in achieving a painless, peaceful death.
  • Voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED), including appropriate supportive care, to help a badly suffering patient to achieve a peaceful death. VSED is authorized nationwide.
  • Medical aid in dying: a medical practice that offers terminally ill, mentally competent adults the option to request a prescription for medication that they can ingest to shorten their dying process. Medical aid in dying currently is authorized in five states, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico, but legislators in the District of Columbia and at least 24 other states have introduced medical aid-in-dying bills.

Physicians who want to utilize the Doc2Doc service can call the Compassion & Choices toll-free number: 800.247.7421, email: [email protected], or visit the Compassion & Choices website at: www.compassionandchoices.org/what-we-do/doctors-to-doctors.

In addition, Compassion & Choices, in collaboration with 18 leading aging and healthcare organizations, is conducting “The Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment” to encourage healthcare providers and institutions to honor patients’ wishes.


New Legislation Would Give Patients More Power Over Their Own Care

Compassion & Choices Praises Senator Warner’s and Isakson’s Care Planning Act of 2015

(Washington, DC – June 11, 2015) Compassion & Choices, the nation’s leading nonprofit devoted to improving care and expanding choice at the end of life, praised yesterday’s introduction of The Care Planning Act of 2015 by U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), a member of the Senate Health Committee.

The bipartisan bill would create a Medicare benefit for people facing grave illness to work with their doctor to define, articulate and document their personal goals for treatment. It would further help patients avoid excessive or unwanted medical treatment and receive only the care they want, consistent with their wishes, across care settings.

Responding to the bill’s introduction, Compassion & Choices National and Federal Programs Director Daniel Wilson said:

“Senator Warner’s and Isakson’s legislation empowers people to truly get the outcomes they want when they are facing serious illness at the end of life. Too often during a health crisis, patients defer to a medical system that is so focused on keeping a body alive, it can forget the person inside. A focus on the person is what we need and what this bill provides.

“For many Americans, spending their final weeks or months undergoing noncurative, exhausting, debilitating treatments is not the life they want. Individuals deserve choice at the end of life, and whether they choose a maximum quantity of days or a maximum quality of perhaps fewer days, their doctors need to support them. The Care Planning Act of 2015 goes a long way toward helping patients achieve personal clarity about their priorities, and helps healthcare providers honor those priorities. Compassion & Choices is proud to support this legislation.”

Full details of the Care Planning Act of 2015 are available at: http://www.warner.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2015/6/warner-isakson-introduce-bipartisan-bill-to-improve-planning-options-for-patients-with-advanced-illness

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

California Committee Sends Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill to Senate Floor

(Sacramento, CA – May 28, 2015) Compassion & Choices today is pleased to report that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a bill that would authorize the option of medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults. The vote was 5-2.

The legislation, the End of Life Option Act (SB 128), would allow mentally competent adults with six months or less to live the option to request prescription medication they could take to painlessly and peacefully end an unbearable dying process. A vote on the Senate floor is now expected to happen next week.

“We thank the committee members for responding to the voices of terminally ill Californians who face unbearable suffering, even with the best hospice and palliative care,” said Compassion & Choices California Campaign Director Toni Broaddus. “Dying people in agony desperately need more end-of-life options. That’s why we are confident the full Senate will respond to this demand by passing this bill before its June 5 deadline for legislative action.”

The End of Life Option Act is closely modeled after the death-with-dignity law in Oregon. It has worked well for 17 years, without a single proven 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 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 % vs. 24 %), according to a 2014 poll. Yet, nearly two decades after Oregon voters rejected a ballot initiative to stop implementation of our nation’s first death-with-dignity law in 1997, California still has not authorized this 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 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 in California and 44 other states nationwide. Since then, legislators in the District of Columbia and at least 23 states have introduced bills authorizing this end-of-life option.