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

Press Releases

National Healthcare Decisions Day, April 16, Is Time to Make End-of-Life Plan

Compassion & Choices Website Has Tools to Ensure You Only Get End-of-Life Care You Want

(Portland, OR – April 14, 2015) Only one in four Americans has completed an advance directive expressing their end-of-life healthcare wishes, so Compassion & Choices is urging all American adults to make their end-of-life plan as part of National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), April 16.

“Most people want to die at home, surrounded by their loved ones,” said Compassion & Choices Medical Director Dr. David Grube, a board-certified physician in family medicine. “Completing an advance directive is a key part of end-of-life planning with your family to ensure your healthcare wishes are honored.”

In fact, advance directives are associated with a lower likelihood of patients dying in the hospital, according to a 2011 study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association. An advance directive actually is two legal documents – a living will and medical power of attorney – that enable people to express their end-of-life wishes to their family and healthcare providers so they honor those wishes.

“If you do not put your end-of-life wishes in writing and appoint a healthcare advocate dedicated to ensuring they are fulfilled, medical professionals are likely to recommend invasive and painful ‘treatments’ even if they may extend your dying process and reduce your quality of life,” said Grube, whose mother refused to even discuss her end-of-life wishes and suffered as a result. “Completing this process provides your loved ones with evidence of your end-of-life wishes and formally notifies healthcare providers about them.”

Compassion & Choices’ website offers the best resources available to help you with your healthcare planning needs at www.compassionandchoices.org/what-we-do/end-of-life-consulting/.

These tools include Compassion & Choices exclusive Good to Go Resource Guide. It provides ideas, inspiration and information on thorough, effective end-of-life preparation. Compassion & Choices also offers an exclusive dementia provision you can add to your advance directive. An estimated 5.2 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Most advance directives do not apply to severe dementia alone. Adding a dementia provision ensures that families and physicians have a healthcare guide for the estimated half a million people who will die this year from Alzheimer’s.”

To prompt discussion of advance care planning, Compassion & Choices invites people to share bold graphics and the taglines “Ask me” and “Tell me” from our Facebook page (facebook.com/CompassionandChoices).

In addition, Compassion & Choices, in collaboration with 18 leading aging and healthcare organizations, is conducting “The Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment” to encourage healthcare providers and institutions to honor patients’ wishes.

Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill Clears Senate Judiciary Committee in California

Second Hearing on Bill Inspired by Brittany Maynard Draws Hundreds of Supporters

(Sacramento, CA – April 7, 2015) Compassion & Choices today applauded the California Senate Judiciary Committee for approving the End of Life Option Act (SB 128). This is the second legislative victory for the bill, which would allow terminally ill Californians the option to request a prescription from their doctor to painlessly and peacefully shorten their dying process.

The passage of the California bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee comes just two weeks after the Senate Health Committee approved SB 128 by a 6-2 vote. The next vote on the bill will take place before the Senate Appropriations Committee prior to consideration by the full Senate.

“This is another historic accomplishment and a huge step for people who are dying from terminal illnesses in the Golden State,” said Toni Broaddus, California campaign director for Compassion & Choices. “It shows that legislators are hearing the voices of terminally ill Californians who are desperately needing options at the end of life.” More

Senate Committee Rejects Bill to Imprison Doctors Who Practice Aid in Dying

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

(Helena, Mont. – March 31, 2015) Compassion & Choices praised the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee for rejecting a bill to criminalize and imprison doctors who write prescriptions for aid-in-dying medication for terminally ill adults who wants the option to end their suffering.

The bill, which opponents call “The Physician Imprisonment Act” because it would imprison a physician 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 7-5 to table HB477. Earlier this month, the House voted 51-48 to pass the bill on the third and final reading after reversing course several times.

“This is the third session in a row that we have fought these frivolous bills,” said Emily Bentley, Compassion & Choices Montana Campaign Manager. “Physicians across Montana have prescribed aid-in-dying medication for five years without incident. It’s time for 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.

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