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

New Jersey News

Brittany Maynard’s Widower Urges Death-With-Dignity Advocates to Contact Lawmakers as State Legislatures Convene

Dan Diaz Conducts First Interviews Since Brittany’s Death With National Media, Including People, The Meredith Vieira Show, Today and Lawrence O’Donnell shows

(New York, NY – Jan. 14, 2015) Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee this week will join Brittany Maynard’s widower, Dan Diaz, and his brother, Adrian Diaz, for the Diaz family’s first interviews since Brittany utilized Oregon’s death-with-dignity law on Nov. 1.

Some of the interviews will air Wed., Jan. 14, on the nationally syndicated The Meredith Vieira Show, Today (aired at 7:40am), MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, and will be posted on NBC.com. The other interviews will appear in the Jan. 26 issue of People magazine that hits newsstands in New York and Los Angeles on Wed., Jan. 14, and newsstands nationwide on Fri., Jan. 16, and be posted on People.com, and People’s daily online morning show, PEOPLENow.com.

Take action now to help move forward death with dignity legislation in your state. Click here.

A preview of the People interview is available now at: www.people.com/article/brittany-maynard-husband-dan-diaz-keeping-promise. The Today Show segment is available online at: www.today.com/health/brittany-maynards-husband-talks-about-letting-her-go-1D80424130. Interview highlights of The Meredith Vieira Show will be available online this afternoon at: www.meredithvieirashow.com. A preview is available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCKjtIOQjF8.

Coombs Lee and the Diaz brothers will ask death-with-dignity supporters to contact their state legislators via www.TheBrittanyFund.org and urge them to support bills to give mentally competent, terminally ill adults the option to access the medical practice of aid in dying. Compassion & Choices has been working with California Senators Lois Wolk and Bill Monning, and New York Senator Diane Savino to draft and introduce death-with-dignity bills this month. The bills would authorize dying adults to obtain a doctor’s prescription for medication that they can choose to take if their suffering becomes unbearable in their final days.

In addition, lawmakers have pledged to introduce similar bills in Washington, D.C., and at least 11 states: Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Brittany’s story also is galvanizing Compassion & Choices campaigns in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

“She wanted to become an advocate so that other people would not have to leave their home state,” Coombs Lee told the Today show. “Every video that Brittany posted had an enormous impact on the public. They were tweeted and shared and Facebooked all across the world. She was able to connect with people in a very personal way.”

“Dan is Brittany’s legacy made visible,” Coombs Lee told People. “We couldn’t do it without him.”

“This is the moment for action to advance death with dignity,” said Coombs Lee following the interviews. “Brittany Maynard recognized the injustice that the vast majority of American adults would have to leave their home state to access aid in dying. We can honor her memory by helping Brittany’s family fulfill her mission to make aid in dying an accessible medical practice for every adult in the United States, from California to New York.”

Americans believe, by a record 5-to-1 margin, (74% support vs. 14% oppose) that terminally ill adults – in their final days and with no chance for recovery – should have the option of aid in dying to end their suffering, according to a HealthDay/Harris Poll released last month. Currently, only Oregon and four other states authorize aid in dying: Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico.

“My preference would be not to be in front of any cameras,” Dan Diaz told People. “But this was one thing Brittany had asked, that we make it a reality in California. I want to keep my promise to her.”

“You don’t want to let go of your loved one,” Dan told The Meredith Vieira Show.  “But to suggest that she should suffer for me, for anyone, no. Here’s the person I love and I don’t want to see her go, but the seizure that morning [Nov. 1] was a reminder of what she was risking because what was coming next was losing her eyesight, becoming paralyzed, inability to speak, and she’d be essentially trapped in her own body.”

“It truly was the most peaceful experience that you could ever hope for when you talk about a person’s passing,” Dan told the Today show. “The suffering and … the torment and everything she had gone through … that was finally lifted.”

American physicians believe by a 23-percent margin (54% vs. 31%) that adults with an “incurable and terminal” disease should have the medical option of aid in dying, according to a recent online survey conducted by Medscape of 17,000 U.S. doctors representing 28 medical specialties.

“She [Brittany] planned everything out,” Adrian told the Today show. “She wanted specific people in that room for her which she called it a ring of love. If I were sick the way she was, I would want to die in my sleep.”

New Jersey Lawmakers Moving Quickly on Death with Dignity Option

Key Senate Committee Passes Aid in Dying Measure

December 15, 2014 (Trenton, NJ) – A bill to authorize the medical option of aid in dying in New Jersey passed another hurdle today.  One week after an initial hearing on the legislation, the New Jersey Senate Heath, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee voted to release the bill without recommendation. The legislation can now be brought to the floor for a full Senate vote.

Today’s vote in favor of New Jerseyans’ rights to choose aid in dying comes on the heels of the passage of the bill in the full Assembly last month.

State Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney has joined Senator Nicholas P. Scutari as a prime sponsor of the legislation.

“The New Jersey legislature moved one step closer to honoring the will of the people and passing Death with Dignity legislation,” said Barbara Lee Coombs, President of Compassion & Choices. “We thank these lawmakers for moving deliberately to empower their constituents, and for their dedication to ensuring care and peace for people close to the end of life.” More

Brittany Maynard’s Story Inspires 20 Newspapers Across Nation to Endorse Death With Dignity

By Patti Brooks

Brittany Maynard’s historic joint partnership with Compassion & Choices to expand access to death with dignity nationwide has sparked a national conversation about end-of-life choice.

In fact, since our campaign launch on Oct. 6, Brittany has inspired at least 20 newspapers in 11 states to editorialize in support of the medical practice of aid in dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.

Below are excerpts of the 20 editorials in alphabetical order of the 11 states.


Death with Dignity Option Wins in Watershed Assembly Vote

Aid in Dying Law Now More Likely for People of New Jersey

November 13, 2014 (Trenton, NJ) – In a move that brings the people of New Jersey one step closer to having the medical option of aid in dying, the New Jersey State Assembly voted 41-31 in a bipartisan fashion to pass the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (A2270).

“Today’s vote reflects our first victory in the memory and spirit of Brittany Maynard,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, President of Compassion & Choices, which advocated for the bill. “Brittany called on our nation to reform laws so others won’t have to move to a Dignity state for comfort and control in their dying. We’re honored to carry on in her name.”

The Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act would allow a mentally competent, terminally ill adult the choice to request a prescription for life-ending medication that the patient could take – if and when they choose – in order to reduce suffering at life’s end.

The Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act was re-introduced in February 2014 by Assembly Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli, whose own sister-in-law, Claudia Burzichelli, succumbed to lung cancer in 2013.   Prior to her death, she testified about her expected suffering, “…I would hope I might have more options than starving myself or taking my life in a violent way. I don’t know how I will truly feel if and when that time may come. But it comforts me there could be another way, other options. More

Third New Jersey Newspaper Endorses Death with Dignity Bill

By Sean Crowley

“…As medical science allows people to live longer, there are steps a compassionate society can and must take when longer doesn’t mean better.” 

That is an excerpt of an editorial in Sunday’s Times of Trenton endorsing the Death with Dignity for the Terminally Ill Act sponsored by the New Jersey Assembly’s Assistant Majority Leader John Burzichelli.

The impassioned testimony of his cancer-stricken sister-in-law, Claudia Burzichelli, in February of last year helped convince the Health and Senior Services Committee to approve the bill. Unfortunately, Claudia died four months later, before the full legislature could vote on it.

New Jersey’s largest newspaper, The [Newark] Star Ledger, endorsed the bill when it was first introduced, and did so again during debate in 2014. Then, in a third editorial, the paper praised Burzichelli for stewarding the legislation to ensure its passage, opining that “[t]he alternative — laws that require terminal patients to endure needless suffering — is simply cruel.” The [Cherry Hill] Courier Post had also editorialized for the death with dignity law, making The Times of Trenton the third New Jersey newspaper to endorse the legislation. The Times of Trenton editorial cited popular support for the bill, its legislative safeguards and the successful models in other states.

“If you were to become terminally ill and have fewer than six months to live, would you or would you not want the legal option to end your own life with the assistance of a physician? More