Illinois Compassionate Quarterly – Summer 2022
Let’s face it, the news has been distressing lately. Our work to recognize autonomy and expand options at the end of life has never been more important.
Below are highlights of our recent activities and an informative spotlight from our coalition partner, Khadine Bennett, of the ACLU of Illinois.
Activities are heating up as we enter summer! As you will see below, our volunteers are reaching out to people across the state in a variety of ways.National Healthcare Decisions Day:
April 16 is an annual holiday to encourage people to share their end-of-life wishes with their loved ones and doctor. We celebrated it this year with a proclamation by the Oak Park Trustees, letters to the editor published in five papers across the state, and a special event hosted by Compassion & Choices and Howard Brown Health Center, a federally qualified health center.
Presentations: We spread the word at a variety of venues. Since April, we presented at the following:
- Case Managers Society of America Chicago Chapter - Attorney Action Team
- Addison Public Library - Northwest Suburban Action Team
- Third Unitarian Church of Chicago - Oak Park Action Team
- Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana Champaign - Champaign Urbana Action Team
- Clarendon Senior Living Facility - Northwest Suburban Action Team
- Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Church - Springfield Action Team
- Oak Park Library - Oak Park Action Team
Neighborhood Fairs and Senior Events: We have been making our presence known by tabling at a number of community gatherings across the state, including:
- Senior Celebration 2022 - Springfield Action Team
- Hyde Park Summer Fest - Chicago Action Team
- Arlington Heights Senior Fair - Northwest Suburban Action Team
- Elmhurst Pride Fest - Northwest Suburban Action Team
The Oak Park Action Team showed the film Bob’s Choice followed by a discussion led by a local film critic at the Oak Park Public Library.
The North Suburban Action Team launched their first coffee get together with an event at the Mission Hills Development in Northbrook. Five more coffees are scheduled over the summer so far.
If you would like to join the movement, please contact Amy Sherman for more information.
On April 27, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed into law a bill to make improvements to the current law and allow more eligible patients to access medical aid in dying. He is the first Republican Governor to take action on any aid-in-dying bill.
On the legal front, Compassion & Choices has filed a motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California's recently (2021) revised medical aid-in-dying law, Senate Bill (SB) 380. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs falsely claim that Senate Bill 380 forces them to participate in the practice of medical aid in dying. For more information, see here.
New Jersey Superior Court’s Appellate Court recently affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s 2019 medical aid-in-dying law based on constitutional and religious objections. Compassion & Choices submitted an amicus brief in the case Glassman v. Grewal to the Appellate Court in April 2021, and argued before the court in May 2022.
Finally, on May 2, our Community Engagement team launched Catholics for Compassion, a group of faithful Catholics who are committed to expanding end-of-life options for individuals diagnosed with terminal illness. You can find out more here.
Spotlight: Khadine Bennett
Khadine Bennett, Director of Advocacy and Intergovernmental Affairs for the ACLU of Illinois, is a tireless advocate in the end-of-life options movement. Read about her important work at the ACLU, her view on what it will take to get medical aid in dying authorized in Illinois, and what you can do to advance the movement.
What do you do at the ACLU?
I’m the Director of Advocacy and Intergovernmental Affairs. I tell people that this is a long way of saying that I am a lawyer and our main lobbyist. I direct our lobbying, legislative and policy efforts at the state and local levels. My areas of focus include women and reproductive rights, policing, privacy, tech and surveillance, LGBTQ rights, and work related to bodily autonomy.
What is the ACLU’s role in Illinois’ medical aid-in-dying movement?
In the 1990s, we worked with legislators to introduce a bill that would allow for medical aid in dying, which unfortunately did not have enough votes for a floor vote. Since I started in 2011 we have been part of a group of passionate advocates who have been committed to exploring how and when we can introduce and pass legislation on this issue. In the last five or so years, we have been working in partnership with Compassion & Choices and Final Options to build a statewide coalition.
Our goal is to build the foundation for successful passage of medical aid-in-dying legislation, and for us to secure the votes to pass it at the earliest possible opportunity. For me that means having more formal and informal conversations with legislators; working to neutralize groups who are likely to oppose a bill, and working with the coalition to grow and mobilize grassroots supporters of medical aid in dying throughout the state.
Why do you personally care about this issue?
I believe in and support the right of all people to make decisions about their health and body. If I were to have a terminal illness, I would want to have the ability to have the option of medical aid in dying, versus being forced to suffer in a hospital bed. I believe that all people should have access to this option, if they want it, and not because they happen to have a doctor who is more open to helping them transition. It should be a right for everyone.
We are all eager to see legislation introduced in Illinois. When do you envision legislation being introduced, and what are the challenges for introducing a bill?
We will be ready when there is a path to sixty votes in the House and thirty votes in the Senate. We are working with a core group of legislative champions to build support in both chambers. Some of the challenges include strong opposition from groups that may have an influence on the votes we need in Springfield, like certain medical groups, disability rights and religious organizations.
Education also must be done with legislators because they may have misinformation or misconceptions about what medical aid in dying means, or it could be the first time that they have heard about this issue. Finally, there is a reluctance to talk
about end-of-life issues. That is why it’s important for people who care about this issue to reach out to their legislators and explain why this change in the law is needed.
What can supporters do to make a difference?
Supporters should call, make visits or write letters to their elected officials and ask folks in their networks to do the same. If they have compelling stories, they should share them with their legislators.Editor's Note: If you would like to take action, please contact [email protected].
Want to learn how to effectively advocate for end-of-life care options? Join us for a two-day Train the Advocate workshop on July 14 and 15, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day. Register for the training here.
Check out the following links for more information on upcoming and past events:
Call for Storytellers
"Finish Strong" Challenge
Invite a friend to coffee and discuss what a good death means to you both and share Compassion & Choices’ Tools to Finish Strong.
Before You Go...
If you would like to become more involved with Compassion & Choices in Illinois, please email Amy Sherman at [email protected]
If you have suggestions for future editions of this newsletter, please email Patrick Donges at [email protected]