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

All News

C&C Celebrates Pride Month

June is Pride Month, and Compassion & Choices staff and volunteers are celebrating at events nationwide again this year. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals have had on history. C&C Regional Campaign and Outreach Manager and LGBT Liaison Mark Dann and his team are sending “Pride in a Box” packages to get the conversation started among event participants. The goal is to make it easy for people to spread the word about Compassion & Choices at LGBT events.

Supporters in states from Arizona to Ohio have already requested “Pride in a Box” to use in their outreach activities. “For some time, I have been concerned with end-of-life issues,” said advocate Allen Vander Linden of Des Moines, IA. “I thought this may well be something that we can fit in our ‘Gay and Gray’ Senior Summit program.”

The LGBT and end-of-life options communities’ paths intersect often, and our objectives are ideologically very similar. Both movements work toward expanding personal freedoms and the ability to make choices based on personal values and beliefs. But people in nontraditional relationships can face additional challenges at the end of life, with varying degrees of legal partnership, marital status and hospital visitation rights. Careful end-of-life planning will help ensure that LGBT patients and their families know and understand all end-of-life care options and wishes.

 

For more information, or if you would like to order “Pride in a Box” click here.

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.

Calif. Medical Assoc. Praised for Dropping 28-Year Opposition to Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill

C&C President Barbara Coombs Lee

By Sean Crowley

Compassion & Choices today praised the California Medical Association for dropping its decades-long opposition to legislation that would protect physicians from criminal prosecution for providing terminally ill adults with the option of medical aid in dying.

CMA’s announcement states that it is “the first state medical association in the nation to change its position on the long-debated issue of physician aid in dying” by taking a ‘neutral’ position on the End of Life Option Act (SB 128). It also marks the first time CMA has not opposed such legislation since 1987.

The CMA’s president said: “it’s up to the patient and their physician to choose the course of treatment best suited for the situation – and CMA’s new position on physician aid in dying allows for that.” The timing of this announcement is important because the deadline for the Senate to pass the End of Life Option Act is June 5, only two weeks away. If the Senate passes the bill, the deadline in the Assembly to pass it is Sept. 11.

Brittany Maynard and husband, Dan Diaz

“The California Medical Association’s new ‘neutral’ position on medical aid in dying is a major milestone because its prior opposition to this legitimate medical practice doomed previous bills,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an ER and ICU nurse for 25 years before she became an attorney and coauthored the Oregon Death with Dignity Act that is the model for SB 128. “We are seeing an enormous shift among medical organizations that is more reflective of the opinion of practicing physicians. This shift helps advance medical aid-in-dying legislation in California and throughout the nation.”

“With deep appreciation, I thank the California Medical Association for showing its leadership and wisdom in adopting its neutral policy stance,” said Dan Diaz, Brittany Maynard’s husband.  “It supports Brittany’s position: ‘This decision is mine to make, mine alone.”

Debbie Ziegler and her daughter, Brittany

“After months of research and collaboration, the California Medical Association has chosen to adopt a forward thinking, medically sound policy that will further the ability of California doctors  to properly treat terminally ill patients. Today, I strongly feel my daughter, Brittany Maynard, smiling down on her beloved home state, and I am confident that California legislators will take note of this important message from the CMA as they move forward in their efforts to pass Senate Bill 128, the California End of Life Option Act. Thank you to the CMA from the bottom of my mother’s heart,” said Deborah Ziegler, Brittany’s Maynard’s mother.

“As I’m now in bed nauseous and in pain from chemo, the CMA’s new position warmed my heart and was the highlight of my day,” said terminally ill Christy O’Donnell, the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit Compassion & Choices filed on her behalf last week asserting that the California state constitution and existing state law allow medical aid in dying. “I was proud that my fellow Californians in the CMA chose to issue an opinion that now accurately reflects the medical needs and desires of the people of this state.”

Christy O’Donnell and daughter, Bailey

American physicians believe by a 23 percent margin (54% vs. 31%) that patients with an “incurable and terminal” disease should have the option of medical aid in dying, according to a 2014 Medscape survey of 17,000 U.S. doctors representing 28 medical specialties. The previous Medscape survey in 2010 showed physicians supported medical aid in dying by only a five percent margin (46% vs. 41%).

A significant number of individual doctors and medical groups support medical aid in dying, including the American Nurses Association/California, American Public Health Association, American College of Legal Medicine, American Women’s Medical Association, Gay & Lesbian Medical Association, and American Medical Student Association.

Read the CMA press release by clicking here.