End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Montana

Compassion & Choices Montana Announces Statewide Radio Campaign in Support of Aid in Dying

by Compassion & Choices staff
March 18, 2013

HELENA – Compassion & Choices Montana today announced a statewide radio campaign designed to educate the public on House Bill 505. The campaign, which begins airing ads this week, urges Montanans to contact their legislators and ask them to vote against a bill that would treat aid in dying as a homicide. Sixty-five percent of Montana voters want their own personal doctor to be able to comply with their end-of-life choices. HB 505, sponsored by Rep. Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel), seeks to put physicians in prison for up to 10 years for providing aid in dying to terminally ill patients who request it. It would change the legal landscape established in a 2009 state Supreme Court decision, which found that a physician could not be prosecuted for prescribing medication that a terminally ill person could take to bring about a peaceful death.

Dr. Eric Kress, featured in the ads, was a plaintiff in the Supreme Court case. Prior to his current position as a family physician at Western Montana Clinic in Missoula, Kress served as medical director at Hospice of Missoula for nine years.

“In my practice, I provide care and compassion to suffering, terminally ill patients at the end of their lives. But this bill would imprison doctors like me who help dying patients in extreme pain,” Kress said. “This bill would gut a Montana Supreme Court decision and allow big, invasive government into private medical decisions.”

Before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Baxter v. Montana, it was unclear whether physicians could help terminally ill patients who wished to end their suffering. On December 31, 2009, the Baxter decision made Montana the third U.S. state where aid in dying is a safe and legal medical choice. The ruling strengthened the 1991 Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, which allows mentally competent adults to make a declaration – Montana’s term for a living will. In 2009 the court ruled that the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act specifically defers to a patient’s own decisions and affords patients the right to control their own bodies at the end of life. HB505 would take that right away and weaken the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.

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

What:  

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.

Why:   

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.”

Who:  

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.

Where:

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

When:  

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.

How:   

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.

Legal Debate Over Aid-in-Dying Legislation

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Diane Rehm Show on WAMU 88.5 | NPR

Montana’s House of Representatives passed a bill that could imprison doctors for assisting in suicide. Legislation is pending in other states to make it legal. A panel joins Diane to discuss the legal and political debate over end-of-life issues.

Guests

Barbara Coombs Lee
president, Compassion & Choices, and chief petitioner of the 1997 Oregon Death with Dignity Act. She was a nurse and physician assistant before becoming a private attorney.

Thaddeus Pope
director of the Health Law Institute and associate law professor at Hamline University School of Law.

Joanne Lynn
geriatrician, hospice physician and director of the Altarum Institute Center on Elder Care and Advanced Illness.

Krayton Kerns
doctor of veterinary medicine and Republican member of the Montana Legislature.

 

Listen Here: http://thedianerehmshow.org/audio-player?nid=17396

 

 

Bill to Imprison Doctors for Aid in Dying Advances in Montana, Despite Voter Opposition

by Compassion & Choices staff
February 28, 2013

(Washington, D.C. – Feb. 28, 2013) The nation’s leading end-of-life choice advocacy organization urged the Montana Senate and Governor Steve Bullock to reject a bill passed Thursday in the Montana House of Representatives by a 51-46 vote that would imprison doctors for up to 10 years if they provide aid in dying.

“Threatening doctors with 10 years in jail for honoring a terminally ill patient’s request for aid in dying violates the sacred doctor-patient relationship and the views of most Montana voters,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, a nurse and physician assistant for 25 years before becoming a private attorney, counsel to the Oregon Senate and a Chief Petitioner of the first-in-the nation 1997 Oregon Death with Dignity Act. “Taking away the option of aid in dying would exacerbate the suffering of dying patients.”

A 2010 Binder Research poll showed an overwhelming majority of Democratic, Republican and Independent voters in Montana “support allowing dying patients in severe distress to make their own end-of-life choice to receive a prescription for life-ending medication.” If the bill, HB505, authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel), is enacted into law, it would gut a 2009 Montana Supreme Court ruling in Baxter v. Montana, a case brought by Compassion & Choices, confirming that it is not against public policy in Montana for a physician to provide aid in dying to a mentally competent, terminally ill person.

“The Senate and Governor Bullock must honor the views of their constituents by rejecting this draconian bill to take away the right of mentally competent people to make their own medical decisions,” said Coombs Lee. “Other state legislatures are moving to protect this legal right, not deny it.”

In contrast to Montana, legislative efforts promoting patient choice at the end of life are underway in numerous other states, including New Jersey, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. Two weeks ago, the Vermont Senate gave final approval to a “Death with Dignity” bill that would protect doctors from criminal or civil liability when treating terminally ill patients who choose to end their lives. National polls consistently show the vast majority of Americans want to maintain their right to choose their medical treatment at the end of their life.

Montana House Would Put Physicians in Prison

by Compassion & Choices staff
February 27, 2013

HELENA – Legislation that would treat aid in dying as homicide passed the House Wednesday, Feb. 27. House Bill 505, sponsored by Rep. Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel), seeks to put physicians in prison for up to ten years for discussing or providing aid in dying to terminal patients. It would change the legal landscape established in a 2009 state Supreme Court decision, which found that a physician could not be prosecuted for prescribing medication that a terminally ill person could take to bring about a peaceful death

Dustin Hankinson, a disability rights activist who suffers from muscular dystrophy, spoke against the bill at the hearing in House Judiciary last week. He said “This bill is part of a continued effort by a vocal minority to deny rights established in 1991 by the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act and reaffirmed by Baxter three years ago, despite the fact the vast majority of Montanan’s support having the option to choose aid in dying.”

A 2010 Binder Research poll showed that an overwhelming majority of Democratic, Independent and Republican voters in Montana “support allowing dying patients in severe distress to make their own end-of-life choice to receive a prescription for life-ending medication.”

Before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Baxter v. Montana it was unclear whether physicians could help terminally ill patients who wished to end their suffering. On December 31, 2009, the Baxter decision made Montana the third U.S. state where aid in dying is a safe and legal medical choice. The ruling strengthened the 1991 Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, which allows mentally competent adults to make a declaration – Montana’s term for a living will. In 2009 the Court ruled that the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act specifically defers to a patient’s own decisions and affords patients the right to control their own bodies at the end of life. HB505 would take that right away and weaken the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.

Doctors are speaking out against HB505. In a guest editorial published around the state several doctors said, “We find this to be a gross misuse of government that at best will reduce important end-of-life conversations between doctors and patients to mere formalities, and at worst will result in inferior care and unnecessary suffering at the end of life. Montanans who have enjoyed freedom of choice throughout their adult lives deserve that same autonomy in their dying.” This opinion was signed by internist Thomas Roberts, oncologist Stephen Speckart, family medicine and palliative care physician Eric Kress, gastroenterologist Kenneth Eden, pulmonologist Paul Loehnen, pathologist Bruce Beckwith and otolaryngologist Phillip Gardner.