End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Press Releases

Victory in Vermont

Vermont made history last month when its legislature became the first to authorize access to aid in dying. “Gov. Peter Shumlin and Vermont legislators have shattered a barrier by becoming the first politicians to show the courage to enact a death-with-dignity law,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee about the impactful win. Vermont is now the fourth state to affirmatively allow physician aid in dying and the first in the East. Oregon and Washington both sanctioned the practice through ballot initiatives, while Montana affirmed this option for the terminally ill via a state Supreme Court ruling in Compassion & Choices’ Baxter v. Montana case.

The Vermont bill is also unique in that it starts with rigorous requirements similar to the Oregon and Washington laws, including mandates for waiting periods, second opinions and extensive physician reporting. But after three years it transitions to a model governed by best practice standards, as in Montana. “Professional practice standards guide all of medicine, and it is appropriate for aid in dying to be governed in this manner,” explained Compassion & Choices Legal Affairs Director Kathryn Tucker, who testified before both the Vermont House and Senate in favor of the bill and also served as lead counsel in the Baxter case. More

Vermont Gov. Signs First Death-with-Dignity Law Passed by Legislature in Nation

CONTACT: Sean Crowley
, scrowley@compassionandchoices.org 

by Compassion & Choices staff

Historic Achievement is Breakthrough in Death-with-Dignity Movement

(Washington, D.C. – May 20, 2013) Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin’s signing into law at 2pm today of the nation’s first death-with-dignity bill passed by a legislature is a “breakthrough” moment, according to the nation’s leading end-of-life choice advocacy group, Compassion & Choices. Vermont also will become the first eastern state and fourth state nationwide where aid in dying clearly is legal and accessible starting immediately.

“This historic achievement is a political breakthrough that will boost support for death-with-dignity bills nationwide,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years who co-authored the nation’s first Death-with-Dignity law in Oregon and was a senior advisor on the successful campaign to pass the Death-with-Dignity law in Washington state, both of which were approved by citizen-passed ballot initiatives and served as models for the Vermont legislation. More

Vermont Becomes First Legislature to Approve Death-with-Dignity Legislation

by Compassion & Choices Staff

CONTACT: Sean Crowley, 202-550-6524

Politics Shift as Lawmakers Embrace Nationwide Support for End-of-Life Choices

(Washington, D.C. – May 13, 2013) The nation’s leading end-of-life choice advocacy group, Compassion & Choices, praised the Vermont legislature for becoming the first legislative body in the nation to approve death-with-dignity legislation. Gov. Peter Shumlin has vowed to sign the bill into law.

“This historic legislative victory proves that the aid-in-dying issue is no longer the third rail of politics. In fact, it’s a winning issue on which Gov. Shumlin campaigned,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant who co-authored the nation’s first Death-with-Dignity law in Oregon and was a senior advisor for the nation’s second Death-with-Dignity law in Washington state, both approved by ballot initiatives. “We congratulate Patient Choices Vermont for its leadership of this multi-year campaign. Their success shows aid in dying has become a legislative winner.” More

Montel Williams Speaks Out for Death with Dignity in New Issue of Compassion & Choices Magazine

CONTACT: Sean Crowley, 202-550-6524

by Compassion & Choices staff
May 2, 2013

TV Host Calls End-of-Life Choice for Terminally Ill “Personal Decision”

(Washington, D.C.) Emmy Award-winning television host Montel Williams advocates for end-of-life choice, including aid in dying, in the spring issue of Compassion & Choices Magazine. Williams, who revealed in 1999 that he has multiple sclerosis (MS) and is an active healthcare advocate, expressed support for the right of terminally ill people with unbearable suffering to control the time and manner of their death.

Appearing on the cover and in the magazine’s “Voice of Choice” column, Williams states, “I do not believe people should be deciding what level of pain other people should endure, especially knowing they have no chance for recovery. It is a personal decision.” More

New Poll: New Jersey Voters Overwhelmingly Support Death With Dignity

by Compassion & Choices staff
April 24, 2013

Contact: Timothy White, (201) 465-8038, twhite@beckermanpr.com

Support strong among divergent interest groups; issue transcends party lines and religion

(Trenton, NJ) – A recent public opinion survey conducted by Momentum Analysis, a public opinion research firm based in Washington, D.C., shows strong support among New Jersey voters for death with dignity both as a personal option and as legislation.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) support allowing mentally competent, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to receive a prescription for medication to end their suffering. Support is very deep, with nearly half (49%) strongly in favor of supporting death with dignity. Majorities across party lines and religions support death with dignity.

“This poll shows that opinions about death with dignity among New Jersey voters are for the most part consistent with public opinions in other states throughout the country,” said Mark Dann, New Jersey Campaign Manager for Compassion & Choices. “Regardless of race, religion, political affiliations or socio-economic conditions, people in New Jersey value their right to have end-of-life choices and to preserve their dignity in the instances of terminal illness,” Dann added.

Nearly two-thirds of New Jersey voters (65%) want the legal option for a peaceful death if they are terminally ill; far fewer report they would not want this option (25%). Majorities across party, racial, regional, gender, socio-economic status and other groupings report they want to have this option for a measure of control in their own life.

“It’s not everyday you see an issue with such widespread support across demographic groups,” said Margie Omero, President of Momentum Analysis, the firm that conducted the survey. “Voters don’t just support death with dignity legislation, but as an option for themselves personally. That’s very powerful.”

“A good death is not a failure of medical care.  It is a goal that probably most of us will strive to achieve when the time comes,” said Dr. Stacey Bachrach of Flemington, NJ. “Legislative measures offering comprehensive end-of-life options will help make this goal a reality for more New Jerseyans.”

Support for death with dignity is favorable among New Jersey voters who also support Pope Francis (51%), among those who support the Right to Life Movement (46%) and among those who support Governor Christie (67%).

The Death with Dignity Act (Assembly Bill No. 3328 and Senate Bill No. 2259) was introduced in New Jersey in the fall of 2012. In February 2013, the Assembly Health Committee released the bill with a favorable 7-2-2 vote.

This poll results are based on a survey of 601 likely November 2013 voters in New Jersey. The survey, commissioned by the national non-profit Compassion & Choices, was conducted by telephone during March 20-24, 2013. Voters from the state voter file with a history of voting in odd-year elections were contacted and further screened to include only likely voters. The margin of error for the sample overall is +/-4.1 percentage points.