End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling


Compassion & Choices Remembers a Visionary in the End-of-Life Choice Movement: Paul Spiers

The death-with-dignity movement suffered a great loss with the passing of former chairman of the Compassion & Choices board of directors, member and dedicated friend, Paul Spiers. Paul died yesterday in Danvers, Massachusetts. He was 62.

Paul was a neuroscientist and a teacher first, and an activist second. The misfortune of his 1994 horseback-riding accident left him paralyzed from the chest down and vitally concerned with the rights of patients. He began to speak out on the importance of end-of-life choices. As a person with a disability, speaking in opposition to disability rights leaders, his voice mattered. It took courage to speak out against the disability party line, and this Paul had in abundance. He did not shy away from debate, and enthusiastically made appearances and filed legal briefs in support of the work of Compassion & Choices until shortly before his death.

Our movement took great evolutionary leaps in the early years of this millennium, and Paul Spiers was the force behind that evolution. He broadened the focus of the Hemlock Society to include political advocacy and, as chair of the board, led it to change its name and mission.

In January 2003 he courageously distanced the organization from movement extremists and clarified the limitation of its advocacy of aid in dying to the terminally ill and mentally competent. In July of that year the Hemlock Society became End-of-Life Choices and began to realize opportunities for growth and leadership that continue at Compassion & Choices today. More

Aging in America Conference Features Panel on Rise of Unwanted Patient Care


Aging in America Conference panel sponsored by the Compassion and Choices: “What is Patient- and Family-Centered Care and What Happens When We Fail to Prevent It?” Patient-centered care should not include unwanted medical treatment and unnecessary suffering. Yet millions of Americans with advanced illnesses or who are terminally ill:

  • Suffer needlessly from undertreated pain and other agonizing symptoms;
  • Undergo pointless and costly invasive tests and treatments, often in their last days and hours; and
  • Have their treatment preferences or advance directives ignored or overridden by healthcare professionals and others.


A new study published in Feb. in the Journal of the American Medical Association examining Medicare claims data found that between the years 2000 and 2009 treatment in acute care hospitals decreased while the usage of intensive care units (ICU) and healthcare transitions the last month of life increased. An accompanying Journal of American Medical Association editorial, “Changes in End-of-Life Care Over the Past Decade More Not Better,” concluded: “The focus appears to be on providing curative care in the acute hospital regardless of likelihood of benefit or preferences of patients. If programs aimed at reducing unnecessary care are to be successful, patients’ goals of care must be elicited and treatment options such as palliative and hospice care offered earlier in the process than is the current norm.”


Mickey MacIntyre, Chief Program Officer, Compassion & Choices (read his testimony about how unwanted medical treatment at life’s end causes needless costly suffering before the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Transforming End-of-Life Cares);
Lynn Feinberg, MSW, Sr. Strategic Policy Advisor, AARP Public Policy Institute;
Brian Lindberg, MMHS, Exec. Dir., Consumer Coalition for Quality Health Care;
Andrew MacPherson, Director of Government Affairs at Jennings Policy Strategies Inc.


Crystal C (West Tower/Green Level), Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Wacker Dr.


Friday, March 15, 1pm-2pm CT. If you cannot attend panel but want an interview Tuesday (March 12) Wednesday (March 13), Thursday (March 14) or Friday (March 15) with Compassion & Choices Chief Program Officer Mickey MacIntyre, please contact Sean Crowley: 202-550-6524, seancrowley57@gmail.com.


If you want to attend panel, but have not registered yet for the Aging in America Conference, please contact Jutka Mándoki: jutkam@asaging.org, 312-239-4834.

Aid-in-Dying Legislation Advancing Around the Country

by Compassion & Choices staff
February 7, 2013

Bills Clear Committee in New Jersey and Vermont

With Compassion & Choices’ staff deploying across the country, working in tandem with our top-flight state-based campaign teams, aid in dying has taken off in state legislatures. Thanks to our sound strategy, the dedication of our allies and the commitment of supporters like you, there were positive developments in four out of the ten states where we are actively engaged.

The New Jersey Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee approved an Oregon-style aid-in-dying bill on Thursday by a 7-2 vote with two abstentions. Before the vote, committee members heard moving testimony on the measure, which brought several to tears. Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee and a doctor representing the state psychological association were among experts supporting the bill. The urgency of the need for aid in dying was brought forward by a terminally ill Catholic woman whose father shot himself to death after a prolonged illness; she wants the option to use aid in dying. Director of Government Affairs Theresa Connor and other legislative staff are meeting with bill sponsors, committee members and allied organizations to ensure the bill advances. More

Death with Dignity: the Last Great Civil-Rights Crusade

by RJ
December 13, 2012

My biggest disappointment in last month’s election has to do with the Death with Dignity proposal going down to defeat in my native Massachusetts. I was surprised, given the progressive politics of the Bay State. Early indications suggested it would win public approval easily.

The story behind its defeat is a familiar one featuring a pile on of reactionary interests, conservative and religious, who vehemently oppose gays, and free choice seemingly habitually.  I won’t  bother you with specific details of Question 2′s defeat, as Paula Span has touched all the bases in her informative NYT piece (December 6, 2012), except to note that it came down to, as it usually does, big bucks and, in Massachusetts, largely from out-of-state.

I speak for myself, but I find it galling when people attempt to impose their moral and/or religious views on others.  History is replete with the bloody violence of parochialism, and it continues as one of our primary challenges globally since 9/11. In America, the violence gets transposed to highly charged rhetoric such as “assisted suicide,” as if words possess truth density. More

Massachusetts Votes ‘No’ on ‘Death With Dignity’ Act

by Steve Annear
November 7, 2012

A measure to legalize physician-assisted suicide and allow sick patients to end their own lives didn’t garner the support of Bay State voters on Election Night. However, the votes were so close that proponents of the measure didn’t concede until the next morning.

In a statement Wednesday morning, supporters of ballot Question 2, known as the “Death With Dignity Act,” said regrettably, they “fell short.”

“For the past year, the people of Massachusetts participated in an open and honest conversation about allowing terminally-ill patients the choice to end their suffering,” the campaign said in a statement. “The Death with Dignity Act offered the terminally-ill the right to make that decision for themselves, but regrettably, we fell short. Our grassroots campaign was fueled by thousands of people from across this state, but outspent five to one by groups opposed to individual choice.”

The final results of the vote on Question 2 were announced Wednesday morning. The “Death With Dignity Act,” which aimed at allowing a physician licensed in Massachusetts to prescribe medication to a terminally ill patient to end their own life, lost 49% to 51%, according to election results.

In Massachusetts, 1,439,785 voters were against the proposal, while 1,382,651 supported the measure. In Boston, however, voters didn’t share the same sentiment as the rest of the Commonwealth. Hub voters favored the act, with 111,852 of those registered casting a “Yes” vote, compared to 107,377 who voted “No.” More