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

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Another Attempt to Criminalize Doctors Who Provide Aid in Dying Rejected by Montana Lawmakers

Compassion & Choices Praises Legislature for Preserving End-of-Life Freedoms

(Helena, MT – March 13, 2015) Compassion & Choices praised the Montana House for rejecting a second bill in four weeks that would have criminalized writing a prescription for aid-in-dying medication to a terminally ill adult who wants that option to end their suffering. The bill, which opponents call “The Physician Imprisonment Act” because it would have imprisoned a doctor for up to 10 years for this medical practice, was one of several in recent years intended to gut the state Supreme Court’s 2009 ruling in Baxter v. Montana.

A bipartisan group of legislators voted 50-50 to defeat the former bill, HB477, after the Montana House Judiciary Committee had approved it on Friday, Feb. 20. On Feb. 17, the Montana House rejected a bill that would have charged a doctor with homicide for writing a prescription for aid-in-dying medication.

“We have been fighting frivolous bills like this for too long,” said Emily Bentley, Compassion & Choices Montana Campaign Manager. “Our courts have told us that existing state law protects end-of-life autonomy, and the overwhelming majority of Montanans agree. It’s time for these opponents of freedom to move on.”

A 2013 poll showed 69% of Montana voters support authorizing physicians to write prescriptions for aid-in-dying medication.

In 2009, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in Baxter v. Montana that state law authorizes physicians to prescribe aid-in-dying medication to a terminally ill adult who requests it. The Court said: “The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act clearly provides that terminally ill patients are entitled to autonomous end-of-life decisions.” The court required four safeguards: The patient must be 1) terminally ill, 2) mentally competent, 3) over 18 years old, and 4) must self-administer the medication. The court did not rule one way or the other on constitutional grounds. Five years later, many doctors across Montana have written aid-in-dying prescriptions for terminally ill people who request it.

Brittany Maynard Family, Compassion & Choices Making End-of-Life Care Progress

Aid-in-Dying Bills Introduced in 16 Legislatures, Hearings Proceeding 

(Portland, OR – March 10, 2015) Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and at least 15 states have introduced bills to authorize the medical option of aid in dying since Compassion & Choices released a video-recorded call to action by Brittany Maynard on Nov. 19, the same day that would have been her 30th birthday. Currently, only five states – Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico – authorize this medical practice.

All of the bills were introduced during a seven-week period between Jan. 8 and Feb. 24 in states across the political spectrum. They include five blue states (California, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island), four purple states (Colorado, Iowa, Montana, Wisconsin) and six red states (Alaska, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming). Today, March 10, there is a hearing scheduled on the Maryland legislation before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Next Monday, March 16, a hearing is scheduled on the Connecticut bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In addition, aid-in-dying bills re-introduced in Connecticut and Massachusetts this year had 16 and 24 more sponsors, respectively, than when they were introduced last year. Finally, last November, the New Jersey Assembly passed an aid-in-dying bill on a bipartisan vote, only 12 days after Brittany died.

“This tidal wave of action and bill introductions is a testament to our powerful partnership with Brittany Maynard’s family to fulfill her mission to make aid in dying an authorized medical option for dying adults throughout America,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney and former ER and ICU nurse who coauthored the Oregon death-with-dignity law that Maynard utilized to end her agonizing suffering from terminal brain cancer.

“I hope for the sake of other American citizens – all these people that I’m speaking to that I’ve never met, that I’ll never meet – that this choice be extended to you, this right. That we mobilize, that we vocalize, that we start to talk about it,” said Brittany in her call-to-action video posted at www.TheBrittanyFund.org. “I know my family will continue to carry this torch along for me”

Since then, Brittany’s husband, Dan Diaz, and her mother, Debbie Ziegler, have done numerous interviews promoting the cause. Debbie Ziegler recently appeared on the nationally syndicated Dr. Oz Show, and Dan Diaz was interviewed for Oprah Winfrey Network’s Where Are They Now? show that will air this Sunday, March 15, at 9 p.m. ET.

“Brittany’s wish is coming true. The tireless, very public advocacy of her husband, Dan Diaz, and mother, Debbie Ziegler, is a major reason for our auspicious campaign launch since Brittany’s call to action,” Coombs Lee said. “Now we urge Brittany’s thousands of supporters to visit www.TheBrittanyFund.org so they can tell their state legislators to pass these aid-in-dying bills in her honor.”

To date, over five million people have visited the www.TheBrittanyFund.org, and more than 50,000 people have sent letters urging state lawmakers to pass legislation to authorize medical aid in dying for mentally competent, terminally ill adults.

The jurisdictions, bill names and introduction dates in 2015 are listed below in chronological order.

Missouri Missouri Death With Dignity Act (HB 307) Jan. 8, 2015
Washington, D.C. Death with Dignity Act of 2015 (B21-0038) Jan 14, 2015
California End-of-Life Option Act (SB 128) Jan. 20, 2015
Iowa Iowa Death with Dignity Act (HF 65) Jan. 21, 2015
Montana Montana Death with Dignity Act (SB 202) Jan. 21, 2015
Wyoming Death With Dignity (HB 0119) Jan. 22, 2015
Connecticut Compassionate Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (SB 668) Jan. 23, 2015
Colorado Colorado Death with Dignity Act (HB 15-135) Jan. 27, 2015
Hawaii Death With Dignity (HB 1255) Jan. 28, 2015
Kansas Kansas Death with Dignity Act (HB 2150) Jan. 28, 2015
Oklahoma Oklahoma Death With Dignity Act (HB 1673/HB 1021) Feb. 2, 2015
Maryland Death With Dignity Act (SB 676) Feb. 6, 2015
Alaska Voluntary Termination of Life (HB 99) Feb. 9, 2015
Wisconsin SB 128 Feb. 11, 2015
Rhode Island Lila Manfield Sapinsley Compassionate Care Act (H 5507) Feb. 12, 2015
New York New York End-of-Life Options Act (S3685/AO2129) Feb. 13, 2015
Utah Utah Death With Dignity Act (HB 391) Feb. 24, 2015

Compassion & Choices Volunteer Christy O’Donnell Featured in PEOPLE

Recently, PEOPLE featured California attorney, single mom and Compassion & Choices volunteer, Christy O’Donnell. The 46 year-old former police officer was diagnosed with stage IV lung adenocarcinoma, a lung cancer that has spread to her brain, leaving her with a terminal diagnosis. O’Donnell opens up about her diagnosis, how she’s planned for her death and why she’s spending her last days campaigning for aid-in-dying legislation in her home state of California.

This link will take you to the PEOPLE story and video. Click here.

If you’d like to take action and support aid-in-dying legislation in your state, please visit the action center at www.thebrittanyfund.org/take-action/.

More States Advance Death-With-Dignity Option

Compassion & Choices continues to make powerful progress in the growing number of states across the nation where people are demanding full end-of-life options.

Our Maryland campaigners rallied more than 100 supporters for an amazing Lobby Day yesterday at the capital in Annapolis to meet with their elected officials and ask them to vote for The Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Death With Dignity Act, which was recently introduced by Sen. Ron Young and Del. Shane Pendergrass. “It was so impressive to break into small groups and hit the hallways only to, literally, bump into other C&C advocates or to see our materials already on aides’ desks,” said Compassion & Choices Communications and Marketing Director Gwen Fitzgerald. The bill sponsors appeared at two C&C functions: a reception for legislators and a press conference about the bill that generated terrific press and drew numerous other legislators. More

Volunteer Spotlight: Lisa Vigil Schattinger

“To my family he was Grandpa Jack, and he was a treasure. We were with him the morning of his death. All of us, including Jack, sat around the breakfast table and talked about what was to come. We talked about how strange and surreal that moment was, and we all expressed our love and respect for him and his decision,” Ohioan Lisa Vigil Schattinger wrote in Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer last December, her first foray into activism in support of end-of-life choice. Grandpa Jack was her stepfather, Dr. Melvin John Rowe III, a noted neurologist, neurophysiologist, author and lecturer from Medford, Oregon, who accessed aid in dying to end his suffering from numerous illnesses including a fatal bone-marrow disorder.

“There’s the absolute reality that you’re going to lose your loved one, and there’s a timeframe to it somewhat. You’re never actually ready to say goodbye though,” says Schattinger. “We’re sad and we miss him, but he chose the way he wanted to go, and it was peaceful and painless. That experience really led me to think, I don’t know how you can not advocate for this.” More