End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Press Releases

Compassion & Choices Montana Unsurprised That Latest Polling Confirms Support for End-of-Life Choices Regardless of Party Affiliation

by Compassion & Choices staff
April 8, 2013

73% of Montanans Oppose “Physician Imprisonment Act”

(Helena) The overwhelming majority of Montanans, to the tune of 82 percent, believe that end-of-life choices are private decisions that should be made without government interference, according to an April 2013 poll of likely voters conducted by Global Strategy Group.

A memo released by Global Strategy Group reveals that “Voters want to know they have a legal option to end their own life in a humane and dignified way: More than 7 of 10 voters (71%) say that if they were terminally ill and in severe distress, they would want the legal option to end their own life in a humane and dignified way.” The memo further goes on to say, “Broad majorities of Montanans strongly support legal end-of-life choices and strongly reject any efforts to criminalize doctors for complying with their patients’ wishes. Furthermore, these data suggest that legislators will pay a real price for supporting efforts to penalize and criminalize doctors for doing so. Ultimately, Montanans support the choice for others, want to be able to make the legal choice for themselves, and believe there is no role for government when it comes to making that choice.”

Nearly three-quarters of voters across party lines oppose HB505, which would send doctors to prison for providing medication that would allow the patient to end his or her own life in a humane and dignified way. 67 percent of voters say they would be less likely to vote for a legislator who supported such a proposal, including 53 percent who said they would be much less likely.

Emily Bentley, Campaign Manager for Compassion & Choices Montana, says, “This latest polling is consistent with what we know about Montana values. People in our state agree that privacy is important and individual freedom is worth protecting. They do not want to see their doctor imprisoned for providing what they believe is good medicine. Lawmakers should pay attention.”

Compassion & Choices Applauds Montana Committee’s Rejection of “Physician Imprisonment Act”

by Compassion & Choices Staff
April 3, 2013

HB505 Fails to Clear Senate Judiciary Committee on Tie Vote

(Helena, MT) – HB505, an extreme bill that would degenerate Montana’s currently legal practice of aid in dying into a felony, failed to clear the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning. The bill was tabled on a tie vote, 6-6. The following statement can be attributed to Emily Bentley, Campaign Manager, Compassion & Choices Montana.

“This bill is a gross intrusion into the physician-patient relationship: it would stifle discussions of end-of-life options and prohibit physicians from providing aid in dying to terminally ill patients who request it. HB 505 would deny suffering, terminally ill Montanans the freedom to choose aid in dying because it would imprison doctors who support their patients’ decisions to end their suffering. Montanans overwhelmingly support aid in dying. This should be the end of the Physician Imprisonment Act.”

HEARING SET ON DOCTOR IMPRISONMENT ACT OF 2013 – MARCH 26

by Compassion & Choices staff
March 20, 2013

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HELENA – Legislation that would treat aid in dying as homicide will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, March 26, at 8 a.m. House Bill 505, sponsored by Rep. Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel), seeks to put physicians in prison for up to 10 years for providing aid in dying to terminal patients who request it. It would change the legal landscape established in a 2009 state Supreme Court decision, which found that a physician could not be prosecuted for prescribing medication that a terminally ill person could take to bring about a peaceful death.

The bill could create a government-imposed gag order on physicians and could land doctors in prison for answering their patients’ questions about end-of-life medical care. Physicians worry that they will be second-guessed by prosecutors and legislators when treating dying patients for pain or even patients with symptoms such as sleeplessness or anxiety.

Dustin Hankinson, a disability rights activist and dedicated advocate of end-of-life choice who suffers from muscular dystrophy, testified at the House Judiciary hearing on Feb. 20 against this threat to the right he helped secure in Montana, “By going through all this work – all this work to stay alive – because I want to make a difference in this world, what have I earned? I’ve earned the ability to have them starve me to death and dehydrate, or to drown in my own body fluid. Those are my only options. There should be another option. Palliative care by itself is not adequate. We’re not pro-death. We’re pro-choice. We want people to make decisions that allow them to take responsibility for their own lives.”

A 2010 Binder Research poll showed that an overwhelming majority of Democratic, Independent and Republican voters in Montana “support allowing dying patients in severe distress to make their own end-of-life choice to receive prescription for life-ending medication.”

Before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Baxter v. Montana, it was unclear whether physicians could help terminally ill patients who wished to end their suffering. On December 31, 2009, the Baxter decision made Montana the third U.S. state where aid in dying is a safe and legal medical choice. The ruling strengthened the 1991 Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, which allows mentally competent adults to make a declaration – Montana’s term for a living will. In 2009 the court ruled that the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act specifically defers to a patient’s own decisions and affords patients the right to control their own bodies at the end of life. HB505 would take that right away and weaken the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.

“Most Montanans agree that it is not the government’s role to interfere in private medical decisions. Politicians are the last people needed at the bedside of a dying person,” said Rep. David “Doc” Moore (R-Missoula). “House Bill 505 would allow the government to undermine the sacred relationship between doctor and patient.”

Many doctors are also speaking out against HB505. Family medicine and palliative care physician Eric Kress appears in a Compassion & Choices Montana radio ad campaign airing on stations throughout Montana this week.

“Sometimes I’m called upon to provide care and compassion to suffering, terminally ill patients at the end of their lives,” Kress said. “But legislators want to put doctors like me who help dying patients in extreme pain in prison. This would ignore the Montana Supreme Court and get big, invasive government into our private medical decisions.”

Kress, Moore and Hankinson will be available at the hearing on March 26 to speak with media representatives.

Legislative Public Hearing: Aid-in-Dying Bill Wednesday, March 20, 10:30am

by Compassion & Choices staff
March 19, 2013
(Hartford, CT) — The legislature’s Public Health Committee will hold a public hearing Weds. March 20 on a bill that would allow terminally ill people in Connecticut to obtain a prescription to self administer for a safe and humane death.
The bill, H.B. No. 6645 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING COMPASSIONATE AID IN DYING FOR TERMINALLY ILL PATIENTS, was raised by the committee in January. The legislature has considered similar bills in past years, but Wednesday will mark the first time proposed legislation has been brought to a public hearing here.
The states of Washington and Oregon have allowed aid-in-dying for more than a decade after being approved by public referendum; a court case resulted in aid-in-dying being legal in Montana.
Supporters of HB6645, including patients, doctors, nurses, and clergy, are expected to testify starting at 10:30 am.

WHAT: Public hearing on HB6645 – Compassionate Aid-in-Dying for Terminally Ill Patients

WHO: Legislature’s Public Health Committee

WHEN: Wednesday, March 20 – 10:30 am

WHERE: Room 1D, Legislative Office Building 

Aging in America Conference Features Panel on Rise of Unwanted Patient Care

What:  

Aging in America Conference panel sponsored by the Compassion and Choices: “What is Patient- and Family-Centered Care and What Happens When We Fail to Prevent It?” Patient-centered care should not include unwanted medical treatment and unnecessary suffering. Yet millions of Americans with advanced illnesses or who are terminally ill:

  • Suffer needlessly from undertreated pain and other agonizing symptoms;
  • Undergo pointless and costly invasive tests and treatments, often in their last days and hours; and
  • Have their treatment preferences or advance directives ignored or overridden by healthcare professionals and others.

Why:   

A new study published in Feb. in the Journal of the American Medical Association examining Medicare claims data found that between the years 2000 and 2009 treatment in acute care hospitals decreased while the usage of intensive care units (ICU) and healthcare transitions the last month of life increased. An accompanying Journal of American Medical Association editorial, “Changes in End-of-Life Care Over the Past Decade More Not Better,” concluded: “The focus appears to be on providing curative care in the acute hospital regardless of likelihood of benefit or preferences of patients. If programs aimed at reducing unnecessary care are to be successful, patients’ goals of care must be elicited and treatment options such as palliative and hospice care offered earlier in the process than is the current norm.”

Who:  

Mickey MacIntyre, Chief Program Officer, Compassion & Choices (read his testimony about how unwanted medical treatment at life’s end causes needless costly suffering before the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Transforming End-of-Life Cares);
Lynn Feinberg, MSW, Sr. Strategic Policy Advisor, AARP Public Policy Institute;
Brian Lindberg, MMHS, Exec. Dir., Consumer Coalition for Quality Health Care;
Andrew MacPherson, Director of Government Affairs at Jennings Policy Strategies Inc.

Where:

Crystal C (West Tower/Green Level), Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Wacker Dr.

When:  

Friday, March 15, 1pm-2pm CT. If you cannot attend panel but want an interview Tuesday (March 12) Wednesday (March 13), Thursday (March 14) or Friday (March 15) with Compassion & Choices Chief Program Officer Mickey MacIntyre, please contact Sean Crowley: 202-550-6524, seancrowley57@gmail.com.

How:   

If you want to attend panel, but have not registered yet for the Aging in America Conference, please contact Jutka Mándoki: jutkam@asaging.org, 312-239-4834.