End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

unwanted treatment

Elder Abuse – A National Tragedy

By Ashley Carson Cottingham
National Field Director

On June 15, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we take time to acknowledge that an estimated 2.1 million older Americans fall victim to elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation each year. At Compassion & Choices we work diligently to protect older adults by upholding their rights at the end of life, sometimes when they are no longer able to speak for themselves. And this year we became proud members of the Elder Justice Coalition in Washington, D.C.

Elder abuse occurs on a regular basis, affecting some of the most vulnerable members of our society. What’s even worse is that for every reported case of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, experts believe there are five that go unreported. We must put an end to it.

Our work has exposed a form of elder abuse that is rarely discussed. It occurs when an older adult’s expressed wishes at the end of life are ignored, and as a result they are subjected to unwanted and invasive medical treatment. We believe this unwanted treatment absolutely constitutes elder abuse. More

Compassion Drives ‘Aid in Dying’ Movement

By Mary Steiner

Jun 02, 2013

Vermont recently approved historic legislation allowing aid in dying, sometimes referred to as “death with dignity.”

Its The Patient Choice at End of Life Act represents a tremendous advance for citizens of that state and the entire movement to expand end-of-life choice. Although widely covered in media on the East Coast, this important development received little attention in Hawaii.

Aid in dying allows terminally ill, mentally competent adult patients to request, and physicians to prescribe, life-ending medication when they their suffering unbearable to bring about a peaceful death.

Vermont is the first state to enact such a law legislatively. Oregon and Washington passed death-with-dig- nity acts by referendum, while the Montana Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that physicians there may provide aid in dying.

The new Vermont law, which the governor signed on May 20, contains provisions similar to Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act and policies in Hawaii. It follows Oregon’s model, but after three years, those requirements expire, at which time professional practice standards will prevail, as they do in Hawaii. More

Tell Everyone You’re Good to Go

Dear friends,

Hindsight is always 20/20. But I still feel utterly duped by the medical establishment for what happened to my father, Ted Hamann.

At age 73, he went into his local hospital for a routine surgical procedure. He came out of it doing as well as expected, but six hours later he was in an ambulance on a 75-mile mad dash to Boston due to a stroke.

Doctors there gave us nothing but optimistic predictions about how Dad would respond to surgery. And we felt hopeful afterwards, when he was discharged to rehab to learn to walk, talk and swallow again.

Unfortunately, he had another stroke—this one even more debilitating. Once again, we were steered toward treatment as the only logical and responsible option. We were skeptical, so at every turn we gave doctors my father’s DNR and reminded them that he wanted no extraordinary measures or aggressive treatment of any kind. More

Physicians debate whether patients need to know they’re dying

By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times
April 25, 2013

In the days when American physicians dispensed oracular commands and their judgments were rarely questioned, a doctor could take it upon himself with few ethical qualms to keep from a patient the bad news of a terminal diagnosis.

For better or worse, those days may be well behind us. But physicians have not ceased debating one of the stickiest and most universal ethical quandaries of medical practice: How, when and why does one inform a patient that he or she is dying? The latest evidence of that ongoing discussion was published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal.

The latest question in the journal’s “Head to Head” feature, “Do patients need to know they are terminally ill?,” essentially pits one side’s reasonable arguments that “we’re all dying” and “you never really know when and of what a patient will die” against another side’s equally compelling assertions that “knowledge allows better decisions” and “a patient can still have hope — to live to see a daughter married or achieve a cherished goal or to die a peaceful death at home.” More

“Make Your Plan” Urges End-of-Life Care Advocacy Organization

by Compassion & Choices Staff
April 10, 2013

National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16th

Portland, OR – With only one in four Americans stating their end-of-life care decisions before they are incapacitated, Compassion & Choices today asked all Americans to “Make Your Plan” for National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), April 16. The importance of planning ahead was evident in the February 6 edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association, which reported that 26% of Medicare beneficiaries spent part of their last month of life in an intensive care unit — an increase from a decade ago.

The organization offers resources free of charge, including advance directive forms for every state and tools to stimulate discussion and aid decision-making. Forms can be downloaded at compassionandchoices.org or ordered by phone at 800.247.7421.

Compassion & Choices also announced the availability of exclusive content: a dementia provision for advance directives. According to a report released last month by the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s deaths continue to rise — increasing 68 percent from 2000-2010. The new provision can be added to any advance directive or living will to advise physicians and family of the wishes of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

President Barbara Coombs Lee explained why the dementia provision is so important. “Most advance directives take effect only when a person is unable to make healthcare decisions and is either ‘permanently unconscious’ or ‘terminally ill,’” she said. “But what of the situation in which a person suffers from severe dementia but is neither unconscious nor dying? Without this provision in advance directives, families and doctors have no sure guide for the care of the estimated 450,000 people who will die this year with Alzheimer’s.”

Compassion & Choices has launched a social media campaign featuring bold graphics and the taglines “Ask me” and “Tell me” to prompt discussion of advance care planning, sharing the graphics from its Facebook page: facebook.com/CompassionandChoices.

Completing advance directives is the first step toward patients receiving the care they want – and only the care they want. Compassion & Choices is conducting a national campaign to stop unwanted medical treatment so that healthcare providers and institutions take all steps to honor patients’ wishes. The campaign petition can be found here: tinyurl.com/umt-petition

For more information please visit www.compassionandchoices.org

Compassion & Choices is a nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life. We support, educate and advocate.