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

Press Releases

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.


LA City Council Passes Resolution to Support State Aid in Dying Bill

Adds to Momentum Behind End of Life Option Act Inspired by Brittany Maynard 

(Los Angeles, CA – May 6, 2015) Compassion & Choices praised the Los Angeles City Council for unanimously passing a resolution today to support the End of Life Option Act (SB 128) currently being considered in the state legislature.

The bill would allow mentally competent, terminally ill adults the option to request a prescription from a doctor for medication that they could take to die peacefully if their suffering becomes unbearable. Los Angeles is the largest jurisdiction in California to pass such a resolution, but not the first. So far, the City of West Hollywood, Cathedral City, Santa Barbara County, Alameda County, Santa Cruz County and Mar Vista Community have all endorsed the End of Life Option Act.

“This is another victory that creates a pathway for the passage of end of life options in the Golden State,” said Toni Broaddus, California Campaign Director. “All Californians should have the option, together with their families, their doctors and their faith, to make the end-of-life decisions that are right for them in the final stages of a terminal illness.”

The passage of the City Council resolution comes a few weeks after the End of Life Option Act SB 128 cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Health Committee in Sacramento. The next vote on the California bill will take place in the Appropriations Committee, after which it goes on to consideration by the full senate. More

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.