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Persistence Brings Progress in State Campaigns

feature-md-pcJanuary was an energized month for the end-of-life choice movement, with meaningful action in a number of states where year after year we’re continuing to push for change.

New Mexico

Five years ago, two Albuquerque oncologists and a cancer patient from Santa Fe served as plaintiffs in a landmark court ruling that stated terminally ill residents have a fundamental right to aid in dying under the state constitution. Last year, however, the New Mexico Supreme Court overturned that decision, calling for “robust debate” in the Legislature instead.

Compassion & Choices and the ACLU of New Mexico have worked hard to answer that recommendation and now commend Representative Deborah Armstrong and co-sponsor, Representative Bill McCamley, for filing the End-of-Life Options Act on January 20. The bill passed out of the Health and Human Services Committee on February 3, and now moves to the Judiciary Committee and then to the full floor.

Maryland

C&C rallied 165 supporters for a lobby day around reintroduction of the “Richard E. Israel and Roger ‘Pip’ Moyer End of Life Options Act” on the 25th. First introduced in 2015, the bipartisan bill now has 13 Senate co-sponsors and 42 co-sponsors.

“Our Maryland action teams have doubled; our supporters have increased by over 30 percent, and we have more bill co-sponsors than last year,” said Kensington resident Kim Callinan, chief program officer for Compassion & Choices. “We expect our legislators to listen to the voices of the people who voted them into office and pass this legislation this year.”

New York

Compassion & Choices New York heralded the reintroduction of the Medical Aid in Dying Act for 2017 with a press conference at the state Capitol in Albany January 23.

Rev. Johnnie Green, CEO of Mobilizing Preachers & Communities (MPAC) and senior pastor at Mt Neboh church, said of the bill: “Preachers across New York spend a great deal of time helping comfort individuals and families during illness and death. We are the ones called to the bedside to witness the suffering of dying people and their families. Talking about death and dying, particularly in African-American communities, is too often taboo, and we need to change that. Opening up honest conversations about how people want to be cared for at the end of their lives is something we have to do, and that’s why MPAC strongly supports legislation that would allow people the freedom to ask for medical aid in dying.”

Massachusetts

On January 20, Representative Lou Kafka filed the End of Life Options Act, which he has steadfastly advocated for since 2009. “I have only grown more passionate about this important issue,” he says. Polling shows that 70 percent of Massachusetts voters support aid in dying as well, making us optimistic about eventual passage in the state.

Hawaii

C&C has undertaken an innovative dual approach to secure end-of-life options in Hawai’i.

Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing and Compassion & Choices filed suit January 12 on behalf of a Hawai‘i resident with terminal cancer, John Radcliffe, and a physician asserting the Hawai‘i constitution and existing state law allow the practice of medical aid in dying.

In conjunction, we launched a legislative campaign to give Hawai‘i residents definitive access to medical aid in dying. The bill was announced at the opening of the Legislature on Jan. 18 with broad support from lawmakers.

 

Track the progress of these initiatives on our state pages!