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Tag Archive: Aid in Dying

  1. Honoring C&C advocates

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    brittany-maynard-2a-769On the birthday of perhaps our most recognized advocate, Brittany Maynard, we’d like to honor others who have stood with us and made an indelible mark on this movement. Of course we can’t tell every story in this email, but the following incredible advocates represent the spirit of so many who have supported our mission as they neared death.

     

    Bob Stone:

    Bob Stone

    Bob Stone

    “It’s good.”

    Those were 69-year-old Bob Stone’s last words to his loved ones gathered in his Silverlake, California, home in what was a beautiful and intentional celebration of his life. He was the first Kaiser Permanente patient in Los Angeles to obtain a medical aid in dying prescription having entered hospice on June 9, the day the law went into effect. Bob made it a point to get the paperwork done as soon as possible to ensure peace of mind in his final days.

    Bob was so pleased with the ease of the process that he graciously allowed the Los Angeles Times to profile his choice to end his life “fully, thankfully and joyfully.”

     

    Naomi Sichler:

    Naomi Sichler (R)Naomi Sichler, 33, also from Los Angeles,  placed great importance on accessing aid in dying. Although she did not take the medication, it was a relief to know she could if her suffering became too great.

    Naomi died peacefully at home surrounded by loved ones. Said her husband, Mike Scott, “Although Naomi chose not to take the aid-in-dying medication, the relief it brought her to know it was an option is something all terminally ill patients should be able to feel.”

     

    Kristy Allan:

    Kristy Allen and friend

    Kristy Allen and friend

    Kristy Allan of Placerville was one of the earliest to benefit from California’s law and fill a medical aid-in-dying prescription, and she too was willing to discuss her decision, with the New York Times. It’s hard to overstate the importance of advocates like Kristy sharing these most private moments with the world.

     

     

     

    Jay Kallio:

    Jay Kallio campaigned passionately for medical aid-in-dying legislation in his home state of New York. Racing against the clock and his illness, terminal lung cancer, Jay fought valiantly to be able end his life legally and on his own terms if his suffering became unbearable. Shortly before his death he recorded a video describing the suffering he hoped to avoid.   

    Sadly for Jay and many others like him, he died in September almost exactly as he describes without the option of medical aid in dying. This is not how Jay wanted things to end, and we pledge to see his work in New York through in the near future.

     

    Youssef Cohen:

    Also from New York, NYU professor of politics Youssef Cohen died at the age of 68 from mesothelioma. Just before, he recorded this video to share with other New Yorkers.

    Jay and Youssef were honored as part of C&C’s Day of the Dead event in New York along with other New Yorkers who died as they fought for medical aid in dying laws.

     

    John Minor:

    quote2John Minor was a retired psychologist from Manhattan Beach, California. In John’s final days, he penned a passionate op-ed detailing his personal and professional views on medical aid in dying, and called particular attention to the distinction between the practice and suicide.

    John, who was able to obtain and fill his prescription under California’s End of Life Option Act, left his family, who had gathered around a makeshift bed in his favorite room, with these words: “Thanks for letting me sleep up here.”

    Reflecting on this statement, John’s daughter Jackie said, “I couldn’t see it at the time, but a friend pointed out that his words were actually symbolic of us supporting him throughout his whole journey and seeing him to the end in the manner he wanted. We will be forever grateful that our dad’s wishes were able to be honored, and it was his hope as well as ours that his story may help to pave the way for those to come who want that ultimate choice as well.” He died with this quote pictured here in his line of sight, and it is both a testament to his struggle in his last days to contribute his insights and expertise to the fight for end-of- life options and a beautiful reminder to us all.

     

    Jim Kinhan:

    Jim Kinhan was known as “Mr. Jim” to his many fellow New Hampshire residents whose lives he touched as a state legislator and trained clinical social worker.

    Three years ago, Jim was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. Instead of opting for aggressive treatment, Jim sought palliative therapies that afforded him the highest quality of life as he continued pursuing travel, golf and volunteerism. In fact, Jim was able to complete a 100-mile walk across England, and he even played a round of golf the week before he died.

    In an incredible turn of events, Jim had the chance to ask then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton how she would advance conversations about end-of-life choice, imparting a thoughtful and compassionate response

    Jim appreciated that reply, and even as his condition worsened, he continued to work closely with New Hampshire lawmakers to introduce aid-in-dying legislation in New Hampshire.

    Although Jim could not access medical aid in dying, he died shortly after choosing to voluntarily stop eating and drinking (VSED), with his family gathered beside him singing his favorite song, “What a Wonderful World.”

    Thanks in large part to Jim’s efforts, Concord Senator Dan Feltes plans to file legislation next year to advance end-of-life options.

     

    Miguel Carrasquillo:

    Miguel Carrasquillo

    Miguel Carrasquillo

    Miguel Carrasquillo, a former chef in Chicago and New York, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor at the young age of 30. Miguel spent years enduring painful procedures to try to cure his cancer. After doctors told him that his condition was terminal, he moved back from his home in Chicago to his native Puerto Rico to spend his final days with his family.

    Miguel became Compassion & Choices’ first terminally ill, Latino advocate for medical aid in dying when he recorded videos in English and in Spanish to urge legislators in U.S. states and territories, including his native Puerto Rico, to pass medical aid-in-dying legislation. He proudly referred to himself as the “Latino Brittany Maynard.”

    Miguel accomplished so much at the end of his life by challenging taboos surrounding death — and by extension, medical aid in dying — that persist within the Latino culture. He urged his community, and the entire nation, to speak openly to their doctors about the kind of care they want at the end of life.

    Miguel recorded this cell phone video on May 25, just 10 days before his agonizing death (click here for Spanish version of video):

    Miguel died on June 5 in Puerto Rico. He was only 35 years old.

     

    Thank you for taking the time to learn about these amazing late advocates. Hopefully they will serve to inspire your advocacy the way they inspire the work we do at C&C each and every day. This is a movement about helping people — real people like the ones you just read about.

    You can find more inspiring stories from advocates on our storyteller’s page.

    If you have a personal experience dealing with terminal illness or end-of-life advocacy work, please share it with us. You never know which story will be the next to shape the movement. Click here to tell your story today.

  2. D.C. Congresswoman Vows to Defend Death with Dignity Act from Congressional Interference

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    The following media advisory was released by D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office on November 16. 

    Norton to Defend D.C.’s ‘Death with Dignity Act’ from Congressional Interference

    Calls on Congress to Respect D.C. Autonomy

    WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced today that she will vigorously defend the District of Columbia’s medical aid-in-dying bill, the Death with Dignity Act, from congressional interference.  Organizations for and against the bill have announced their intention to lobby Congress on it.

    “I have always defended, and am obligated to defend, every duly enacted bill of the District of Columbia from congressional interference,” Norton said.  “The same should hold in Congress, regardless of Members’ personal or political views on non-federal matters decided by local jurisdictions.  D.C. residents have spoken through their elected local representatives on this issue, and, in a democracy, unaccountable members of Congress must not impose their views on a local jurisdiction.  I understand the deep passions this issue raises, as we saw during the deliberations of this bill in the D.C. Council.”

    Medical aid in dying is already legal in six states.  According to the Gallup, a majority of Americans (69% in 2016) have supported medical aid in dying since 1973.

    The D.C. bill, which is modeled on the laws in states that have legalized medical aid in dying, allows a doctor to write a prescription for a lethal dose of medication to a D.C. resident who is competent, over the age of 18 and has a terminal illness and six months or less to live.  The bill includes numerous safeguards, including requiring two physicians to confirm the diagnosis, the patient to make two oral requests for the medication, separated by at least 15 days, and a written request 48 hours before the medication can be prescribed, and the patient to self-administer the medication.

  3. D.C. Council Passes Death With Dignity Act on Second and Final Vote

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    (Washington, D.C. – Nov. 15, 2016) The District of Columbia is poised to become the seventh jurisdiction in the U.S. where medical aid in dying is authorized for terminally ill residents after the D.C Council passed the D.C. Death with Dignity Act by a veto-proof 11-2 margin. The vote follows recent enactment of similar laws – in Colorado last Tuesday (Nov. 8) and California in Oct. 2015 – and demonstrates strong public support across jurisdictions of diverse sizes, demographics and locations.

    Advocates of medical aid in dying today celebrated their hard-fought campaign to bring this end-of-life care option to the diverse residents across D.C. The bill garnered widespread support within the African-American community with five of the six African-American council members supporting the legislation in the 11-2 vote count after the predominantly African-American D.C. Commission on Aging endorsed it.

    “I want to thank Compassion & Choices, which organized our D.C. grassroots supporters, without whom we could not have passed this bill. They articulated the urgent need for terminally ill residents to have the end-of-life care option of medical aid in dying,” said bill author Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3). “This law is designed to keep the government from taking away people’s freedom and liberty to make these fundamentally personal decisions in consultation with their family, physician and spiritual advisors.”

    “This is a historic victory because D.C. is the largest and most diversely populated East Coast jurisdiction to authorize medical aid in dying,” said Donna Smith, D.C. field and legislative manager for Compassion & Choices. “It is a big win for people of every color who live in our nation’s capital, especially African-Americans like me. Following the passage of medical aid-in-dying laws in California last year and in Colorado last week, these two states and D.C. have demonstrated the diverse, popular support across our nation for this option to die peacefully.”

    The D.C. legislation, modeled after laws in six states, would give mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or fewer to live the option to get a doctor’s prescription for medication they could decide to take to stop unbearable suffering and die peacefully in their sleep.

    When the Council initially approved the bill on Nov. 1 by the same 11-2 margin, Mayor Muriel Bowser pledged, “I will not be issuing a veto.” According the D.C. legislative process, after it goes through the Office of the Mayor, the bill will be transmitted to Congress for review. Two-thirds of D.C. residents (67%) support giving terminally ill adults the option of medical aid in dying, according to a July 2015 Lake Research poll.

    Today’s vote comes after a vote last Tuesday (Nov. 8), in which 65 percent of Coloradans approved a ballot initiative to authorize this end-of-life care option. Medical aid in dying is currently authorized in five other states with a combined 30+ years of experience with the practice: Oregon (enacted in 1997), Washington (enacted in 2008), Montana (enacted via state Supreme Court ruling in 2009), Vermont (enacted in 2013) and California (enacted in Oct. 2015).

    “I have three cancer diagnoses,” said Dr. Omega Silva, the first woman president of the Howard University Medical Alumni Association and a former president of the American Medical Women’s Association, which supports medical aid in dying. “As an internist and endocrinologist for 45 years, I know from experience some dying people suffer unbearably, even if they have the best spiritual support, hospice and palliative care.”

    A growing number of national organizations representing healthcare professionals have endorsed or taken a neutral position on medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option for mentally capable, terminally ill adults because it relieves intolerable suffering and there is no evidence of abuse or coercion involving this practice. In addition to the American Medical Women’s Association, they include the American Academy of Hospice & Palliative Medicine, American Academy of Legal Medicine, American Medical Student Association and American Public Health Association.

    “No one should have to die in agony like my husband, Sean, did from HIV-exacerbated mesothelioma,” said Michael Kaplan, who has lived with HIV since 1992 and Type 1 diabetes since 1980, and was the husband of late reality-TV star Sean Sasser, an HIV activist. “I urge Congress to respect the will of the people and allow this bill to become law.”

     

     

     

    Compassion & Choices is the oldest nonprofit working to improve care and expand options for the end of life in the United States, with 450,000 members nationwide. For more information, visit: CompassionAndChoices.org.

  4. Deceased Latino Advocates for Medical Aid in Dying Honored at C&C Day of the Dead Celebration

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    Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday observed on Nov. 1-2, when families celebrate the lives of deceased loved ones by honoring them with beautiful gifts, colorful altars and visits to their graves, and embrace death as a part of the human experience in joyful festivity.

    Compassion & Choices’ Day of the Dead celebration on Nov. 1 in New York City was a beautiful event that honored the memory of New York state advocates who spent their last months of life fighting to pass medical aid-in-dying legislation.

    “These brave advocates spent their last months of life advocating for laws to authorize medical aid in dying despite the horrors of their terminal diseases,” said Corinne Carey, New York state director for Compassion & Choices. “And today, as we celebrate and embrace death as a part of the human experience in a colorful and festive celebration, we commit to make medical aid in dying an additional end-of-life option for terminally ill adults in New York.”

    Supporters from different cultures, some with faces painted like skulls wore colorful Día de los Muertos dod2dresses and flower crowns in the style of Frida Kahlo, kicked off the celebration with a candlelight procession outside El Museo del Barrio.

    Nohemí Garza, Youssef Cohen, William Stubing and Jay Kallio. Next to the altar was one of Miguel’s old chef’s caps and and old T-shirt with the words “Harlem” and “The Bronx” printed on it.

    Nilsa Centeno spoke of Miguel, her only son, a former New Yorker whose horrific suffering from brain cancer prompted him to record a bilingual video for Compassion & Choices urging lawmakers nationwide to give terminally ill adults the option of medical aid in dying. Miguel died June 5 in his native Puerto Rico. He was only 35 years old.

    Nilsa shared and stared at the videos Miguel recorded in March in English and in Spanish, and this cellphone video he recorded on May 25, just 10 days before his death (Spanish video) — one she had not seen until that day.

    “I have found solace in the promise I made to my only son, Miguel, during his last days,” she said in Spanish. “I promised him that I would fight to make medical aid in dying an option for terminally ill people so they would not have to suffer in agony at the end of life like he did.”

    Journalists from outlets like CNN en Español, Univision and Telemundo held back their tears as they spoke to Nilsa about Miguel’s horrific death.

    img_7067

    José Garza

    José Garza’s voice cracked as he spoke about his wife, Nohemí, a devout Christian who suffered horribly from cancer at the end of her life in 2004. He also urged his fellow Latinos to talk about death as a normal part of life.

    The Medical Aid in Dying Act made history in May when the New York State Assembly Health Committee approved the legislation shortly after its introduction. The bill will be reintroduced in the upcoming legislative session that starts in January.

    Representatives from the offices of Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz and Assemblymember Robert J. Rodriguez attended to hear the voices of New Yorkers and to show their support of the bill.

    Participants also heard from Father Luis Barrios, pastor from Grace Church in New York.

    “I believe that the human being has the right to decide how their life will [end],” he said. “Death is only a part of life.”

    The event closed with a colorful performance by a skeleton-clad Mexican Folklorico Ballet of New York, who carried what symbolized a wooden casket during a final procession to La Llorona, an indigenous version of the Spanish language folk song about a woman who weeps the death of her children.

  5. Legisladores Estatales Realizan Ceremonia Para Honrar Día De Los Muertos

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    En celebración del Día de los Muertos, Compassion & Choices honro hoy la memoria de los fallecidos defensores de la medida de ley que permitiría a adultos con enfermedades terminales, la opción de solicitar una prescripción médica para un medicamento que les permitiría morir en paz si su sufrimiento se vuelve insoportable.

    “Estos defensores valientes, dedicaron los últimos días de sus vidas abogando por leyes que autorizan la ayuda médica para morir, a pesar de los horrores que sufrieron durante la enfermedad”, dijo Corinne Carey, Directora Estatal de Compassion & Choices Nueva York. “Y hoy al celebrar la muerte como parte de la experiencia humana, nos comprometemos a hacer de la ayuda médica para morir, una opción adicional de fin de vida para los adultos con enfermedades terminales en Nueva York”.

    Los participantes de diferentes culturas, y con disfrazes, iniciaron la celebración del Día de los Muertos con una procesión y bailes del Ballet Folklórico Mexicano de Nueva York afuera del Museo de Barrio en el Este de Harlem. Adentro había un altar rodeado de imagenes de los fallecidos Miguel Carrasquillo, Nohemí Garza, Youssef Cohen, Jay Kallio y William Stubing, todos Neoyorkinos.  Prosiguió un momento de silencio después del encendido de velas.

    La medida Medical Aid in Dying Act (Ayuda Médica para Morir) hizo historia en mayo cuando el Comité de Salud del Estado de Nueva York la aprobó solo unos días después de su introducción. Dicho proyecto será reintroducido en la sesión legislativa que inicia el próximo año en enero.

    “Este proyecto de ley compasivo asegura que honramos a quienes lucharon por la legislación para ampliar las opciones del cuidado al final de la vida para adultos con enfermedades terminales con protecciones adecuadas para impedir cualquier tipo de abuso y mal uso”, dijo Félix W. Ortiz, Asistente del líder de la asamblea de Nuev York. “La ayuda médica para morir es una opción al final de la vida que es una cuestión de libertad personal. Debemos dejar de criminalizar la ayuda médica para morir y respetar los deseos de las personas con enfermedades terminales “.

    nilsa-centeno-mother-of-miguel-carrasquillo

    Nilsa Centeno, la madre de Miguel Carrasquillo

    Nilsa Centeno habló de su único hijo Miguel Carrasquillo, ex residente de Nueva York, cuyo horrible sufrimiento por cáncer de cerebro, lo motivó a grabar un video bilingüe para Compassion & Choices. En el video, Miguel hizo un llamado a los legisladores a nivel nacional a aprobar leyes para que permitieran que las personas con enfermedades terminales tuvieran la opción de recibir asistencia médica para morir. Miguel murió el 5 de junio en su natal Puerto Rico. Tenía 35 años.

    “He encontrado consuelo en la promesa que le hice a mi único hijo Miguel durante los últimos días de su vida”, dijo Nilsa. “Le prometí que iba a luchar para hacer que la ley de ayuda médica para morir, existiera como una opción para las personas con enfermedades terminales para que no tengan que sufrir como él sufrió”.

    Nilsa compartió los videos que Miguel grabó en español e ingles en marzo así como este video que grabó el 25 de mayo, solo 10 días antes de morir.

    “Debo confesar que cuando Miguel me informó por primera vez de que estaba considerando la ayuda médica para morir, enfáticamente dije que no”, dijo Nilsa, quien es catolica. “Pero mientras veía sufrir a mi hijo, me di cuenta de que nuestro Señor Jesucristo no tenía ningún deseo de que mi hijo, Su hijo, sufriera innecesariamente”.

    José Garza habló sobre su esposa Nohemí, una Cristiana devota que sufrió terriblemente por cáncer al final de su vida en el año 2004.

    “Mi esposa ya no tenía que soportar los catéteres y agujas que entraban por su cuerpo frágil”, dijo Garza, ex director ejecutivo del East Harlem Business Capital Corporation. “Sin embargo, aún y cuando los catéteres y agujas habían sido removidos de su cuerpo, Nohemí seguía sufriendo en agonía. Yo sentí su dolor. Yo sentí mi dolor”.

    El proyecto de ley Medical Aid in Dying Act de Nueva York sigue el modelo de la ley Death with Dignity de Oregón y de leyes similares en California, Montana, Vermont, y Washington, estados que han resistido la prueba del tiempo colectivo de 35 años, sin un solo caso documentado de abuso o coerción.

    En 2016, los legisladores en el Distrito de Columbia y 19 estados han presentado medidas de ayuda para morir en: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah y Wisconsin. Esto representa un aumento de tres veces en comparación con los que se presentaron en siete estados en el 2014: Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey y Pennsylvania.

    Mientras que muchas legislaturas han terminado su período de sesiones de este año, el Distrito de Columbia y Nueva York aún están considerando medidas de ayuda para morir. Además, hay un referéndum dirigido por ciudadanos de autorizar la ayuda médica para morir en Colorado.

  6. NJ Senate Committee Approves Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act

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    (Trenton, NJ – Nov. 3, 2016) The New Jersey State Senate’s Health Committee today approved a bill for full Senate consideration that would give terminally ill, adult residents the end-of-life care option of medical aid in dying. The 5 to 3 vote with one abstention to approve the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Act (S2474/A2451) follows the Assembly’s passage of the bill two weeks ago by a 41-28 vote.

    Should it become law, the legislation would allow a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with fewer than six months to live the option to request a prescription for aid-in-dying medication that can be self-administered – if and when the individual chooses – to end unbearable suffering and bring about a peaceful and humane death.

    “With today’s vote, this bill has cleared yet another important hurdle toward providing terminally New Jerseyans with a humane, medical option to reduce the pain and heartache that so often marks the final stage of their lives,” said Ethan Andersen, New Jersey Field Director for Compassion & Choices. “We thank the committee members for their support, and are hopeful their Senate colleagues will stand behind them to help provide end-of-life choices to their neighbors.”

    The legislation has a large coalition of supporters, including the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the New Jersey chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and the New Jersey Psychological Association, as well as members of the state’s medical, scientific and religious communities. In addition, 63 percent of New Jersey residents said they would support an aid-in-dying bill that “would allow terminally ill patients to obtain a prescription to end their lives,” according to a 2015 Rutgers-Eagleton poll.

    “From the beginning, my fellow advocates and I have had only had one goal: to win the right to choose how we spend our final days,” said Susan Boyce, a terminally ill supporter of the bill from Rumson, N.J.  “Thanks to the Senate Health Committee, we now stand another day closer to making that a reality. We are hopeful that the remainder of the Senate and Gov. Christie have heard our voices, and we look forward to continuing our efforts on behalf of all New Jersey residents.”

    The Senate Health Committee’s vote adds to a wave of momentum in advancing similar legislation around the country. On Tuesday, the D.C. Council initially approved an aid-in-dying bill in the nation’s capital, and a citizen-led referendum to authorize this end-of-life option qualified for the Colorado ballot this Tuesday, Nov. 8. California in 2015, Vermont in 2013, Montana in 2009, Washington in 2008, and Oregon in 1997 previously authorized medical aid in dying.  There is no evidence of abuse or coercion in any of these five states.

  7. Massachusetts Law Allows Doctors to Offer Medical Aid in Dying, Suit Asserts

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    Dr. Roger Kligler

    Dr. Roger Kligler

    (Suffolk, Mass. – Oct. 26, 2016) Compassion & Choices has filed suit in Massachusetts Superior Court on behalf of two Barnstable County doctors asserting current state law allows physicians to offer terminally ill, mentally capable adults the option of medical aid in dying. Compassion & Choices won a similar suit in 2009 when the Montana Supreme Court ruled in Baxter v. Montana that: “… we find no indication in Montana law that physician aid in dying provided to terminally ill, mentally capable adult patients is against public policy.”

    “In Massachusetts, there is no law that specifically prohibits providing medical aid in dying. Criminal prosecution against physicians who provide medical aid in dying violates our plaintiffs’ privacy rights under the Massachusetts Constitution,” said Kevin Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices.It interferes with a person’s basic autonomy in deciding how to confront their own mortality and choose their own destiny.”

    “Massachusetts courts recognize a fundamental right of citizens to make end-of-life care decisions, including the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment or nutrition,” said John Kappos, a partner in the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, which worked with the Boston-based law firm Morgan Lewis to help Compassion & Choices file the suit. “There is no rational or meaningful basis to distinguish between withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment to a terminally ill person and a physician providing the alternative end-of-life care option of medical aid in dying.”

    The physician plaintiffs seek a declaration that medical aid in dying is not a crime under Massachusetts law. They also seek an injunction prohibiting the defendants, Attorney General Maura Healey and Cape & Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe, from prosecuting physicians who provide medical aid in dying, because they assert such prosecution is unlawful and unconstitutional. The complaint is posted at: www.compassionandchoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/10.24.16-Massachusetts-Complaint.pdf.

    “Having a prescription for aid-in-dying medication that I could self-administer if my suffering became too great in the final days would provide great comfort to me,” said physician plaintiff Roger M. Kligler, M.D., a resident of Falmouth, who was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer. “It would alleviate my anxiety about the dying process and allow me to live my final days more fully confident that I would not have to suffer needlessly.”

    Since Dr. Kligler’s medical conditions are worsening, plaintiffs will seek preferential treatment for expedited court scheduling.

    “It’s unfair that Massachusetts physicians fear prosecution for offering or even discussing medical aid in dying with their terminally ill patients who want this end-of-life care option. It may make these patients feel abandoned,” said physician plaintiff Alan Steinbach, M.D., a resident of Woods Hole, who treats patients in both urgent care and as a primary care doctor. “The limit on physicians’ ability to provide patients with information on available end-of-life care options hinders our ability to provide them with full and complete information. They need this information to give us informed consent for their subsequent medical treatment.”

    “Massachusetts law permits its terminally ill, mentally capable adults to request and receive medical aid and advice to shorten an unbearable dying process by withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, including nutrition and hydration,” said Kappos. “These are active steps medical professionals take to shorten an unbearable dying process and prevent prolonged pain. Yet terminally ill, mentally capable adults who cannot avoid suffering in this way would be prevented from similarly receiving affirmative medical aid if medical aid in dying is not permitted.”

    Seven out of 10 Massachusetts voters (71%), including a majority of Catholics (64%), Republicans (61%) and disabled voters (74%), support medical aid in dying, according to a Feb. 2014 Purple Strategies survey.

    A fall 2014 Medscape online survey of 17,000 U.S. doctors representing 28 medical specialties said they agreed by a 23-percent margin (54% vs. 31%) that: “I believe terminal illnesses such as metastatic cancers or degenerative neurological diseases rob a human of his/her dignity. Provided there is no shred of doubt that the disease is incurable and terminal, I would support a patient’s decision to end their life, and I would also wish the same option was available in my case should the need arise.”

    A growing number of national organizations representing healthcare professionals have endorsed or taken a neutral position on medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option for terminally ill, mentally capable adults. They include the American Academy of Hospice & Palliative Medicine, American Academy of Legal Medicine, American Medical Student Association, American Public Health Association and American Medical Women’s Association.

    Medical aid in dying is currently authorized in six states, with a combined 30+ years of experience with this end-of-life option: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, California and Vermont. There is not a single documented case of abuse or coercion involving the practice of medical aid in dying in these states.

     

     

  8. Nadie debe morir en agonía como lo hizo mi hijo Miguel

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    Click here to read this piece in El Diario. Este articulo originalmente fue publicado en el Diario 10/18/16.

    Mi hijo Miguel Carrasquillo soportó una muerte agonizante debido a un cáncer cerebral. Él vivió los últimos meses de su vida abogando valientemente por leyes que autoricen la ayuda médica para morir como una opción para adultos con enfermedades terminales.

    Esta semana se cumplen cinco meses de la muerte dolorosa de Miguelito, pero estoy llevando la promesa que le hice mientras tomaba su último aliento: ser parte del movimiento para convertir en realidad la ayuda médica para morir.

    Miguel vivió en la ciudad de Nueva York meses antes de ser diagnosticado con un glioblastoma multiforme, un tumor cerebral agresivo y mortal. A pesar de soportar los tratamientos agonizantes y dolorosos para tratar de curar el cáncer cerebral, se le esparció al hígado, el estómago, los testículos y otros órganos vitales.

    Mi hijo era un alma vieja con una sonrisa contagiosa, que sobresalió por su habilidad de luchar por el cambio, aún y cuando agonizando por el cáncer. Miguel tenía solo 35 años cuando el tumor cerebral agresivo le quitó la vida el 5 de junio, justo unos días antes de que entrara en vigor en California el End of Life Option Act (Opción al Final de la Vida).

    Durante los últimos meses de su vida, Miguel me habló sobre su deseo de morir de manera pacífica tomando su último agarrado de mi mano, en su departamento modesto que rentaba a unas 30 millas de nuestro querido San Juan.

    Debo confesar que cuando Miguel me dijo por primera vez que estaba considerando la ayuda médica para morir, dije ‘No”. Sin embargo, al ver a mi hijo sufrir, comprendí que nuestro Señor Jesucristo no tenía deseaba de que mi hijo, SU hijo, sufriera innecesariamente.

    Como resultado, ahora creo que las personas que se están muriendo deben tener la opción de la ayuda médica para morir en paz y sin dolor.

    Estoy orgullosa al decir que Miguel se convirtió para Compassion & Choices en el primer latino con una enfermedad terminal y defensor de la ayuda médica para morir. De inmediato grabó videos en inglés y en español pidiendo a los legisladores de los Estados Unidos y territorios, que aprobaran leyes de muerte médica asistida. Miguel se convirtió en la voz para los latinos, una comunidad que tanto amó y por la cual luchó hasta su último aliento.

    Miguelito hablaba con orgullo mientras se refería a sí mismo como el “Brittany Maynard Latino.” Maynard también fue una mujer joven con una enfermedad terminal de cáncer cerebral, y como defensora de la causa, inspiró a California para que se aprobara la ley de muerte médica asistida. Brittany tuvo que mudarse desde su hogar en California, hacia el estado de Oregón en el 2014 para obtener acceso a la ley de Muerte con Dignidad. Ella tenía 29 años.

    “Yo no tengo los recursos que Brittany tuvo de mudarse a un estado como California”, dijo Miguel. “Tengo que vivir y morir con este dolor terrible, con convulsiones y shocks eléctricos (en todo mi cuerpo)”.

    Mi hijo no fue un pecador por querer morir en paz rodeado de sus seres queridos.

    Simplemente quería terminar su sufrimiento, no por desesperación o depresión, sino para mantener algo de confort en los últimos días de su vida.

    Me sostuve fuerte mientras Miguel terminaba una entrevista con el periodista Jorge Ramos de Univisión, solo 10 días antes de su muerte. Ramos acortó la entrevista cuando notó a un Miguel adormilado y confundido ante la pantalla del televisor.

    “Esta ha sido una de las entrevistas más difíciles que he tenido que hacer”, Ramos escribió en su cuenta de Twitter unos días después.

    Cuando la entrevista terminó y el equipo de video se retiró, Miguel tomó mi brazo como normalmente lo hacía, para evitar una caída y me guio a su amada pecera que decoraba su departamento.

    La voz de mi hijo era frágil y balbuceaba sus palabras. Sin embargo, logró milagrosamente grabar su video a través de su celular en inglés y español donde suplicaba a los legisladores y a la gente que siguieran luchando por leyes de ayuda médica para morir.

    Miguel murió 10 días después de grabar el video sin la ayuda médica por la que tanto luchó.

    Su voz ha apagado, pero la mía no.

    -Nilsa Centeno es madre soltera, secretaria de oficio y radica en Cidra, Puerto Rico.

  9. No One Should Die in Agony as My Son Did

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    Click here to read this piece in Spanish. This op-ed was originally published in El Diario on 10/18/16.

    My son Miguel Carrasquillo endured an agonizing death from brain cancer in June. He spent his last months of life bravely advocating for laws to authorize medical aid in dying as an option for terminally ill adults.

    Five months have passed since Miguelito’s painful death, but I am carrying on the promise I made to him as he took his last breath: to be part of the growing movement to make medical aid in dying a legal option for all Americans.

    Miguel

    Miguel lived in New York City for several years prior to being diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive, deadly brain tumor, in 2012. Despite bravely enduring excruciatingly painful treatments to try to cure his cancer, it spread to his liver, stomach, testicles and other vital organs.

    My son was an old soul with a contagious smile who stood out in his ability to advocate for change, even while in agony. Miguel was only 35 years old when the aggressive brain tumor took his life on June 5, only days before the End of Life Option Act went into effect in California.

    End-of-Life Options

    During the last months of his life, Miguel spoke to me about his desire to peacefully end his suffering so he could take his last breath holding my hand in the modest home he rented about 30 miles from our beloved San Juan.

    I must confess that when Miguel first let me know he was considering medical aid in dying, I emphatically said “No.” But as I watched my son suffer, I came to believe our Lord Jesus Christ had no desire for my child, His child, to suffer needlessly.

    As a result, I now believe that people who are dying should have the option of medical aid in dying so that they can pass peacefully without pain if all other options fail to relieve suffering.

    Latino Brittany Maynard

    I am proud to say Miguel became Compassion & Choices’ first terminally ill Latino advocate. He immediately recorded videos in English and in Spanish urging legislators in U.S. states and territories to pass aid-in-dying bills. Miguel became a voice for Latinos, a community he loved and fought for until his last breath.

    Miguelito spoke with pride as he referred to himself as the “Latino Brittany Maynard.” Maynard also was a young, terminally ill person with brain cancer, whose advocacy inspired California to pass aid-in-dying legislation after she moved from her home there to Oregon in 2014 to utilize its death-with-dignity law at age 29.

    “I don’t have the resources that Brittany had to move to a state like California,” Miguel said. “I have to live and die with this horrible pain, seizures and electric shocks all over my body.”

    Family

    My son was not a sinner for wanting to die peacefully surrounded by his loved ones.

    He simply hoped to end his suffering, not out of despair or depression, but to maintain some comfort in his final days so that he could pass peacefully.

    Miguel’s Last Wish

    I stood strong as Miguel completed an interview with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos just 10 days before his death. To his credit, Ramos cut the interview short when he noticed a sleepy and confused Miguel on the screen. “This is one of the most difficult interviews I have had to do.” Ramos posted on Twitter a few days later.

    When the interview ended and the video team left, Miguel held my arm, as he normally did to avoid a fall as he guided me to his beloved fish tank that adorned his apartment.

    We spoke about God and fear about his impending death.

    My son’s voice was frail, and his words were mumbled. Yet he miraculously managed to record this cell phone video in English and Spanish to urge people to keep fighting for his legacy.

    Miguel died 10 days after the video, without the end-of-life option he fought for.

    Although his voice has gone silent, mine has not.

    Nilsa Centeno is a single mother and secretary who lives in Cidra, Puerto Rico.

  10. Washington Post: Majority of D.C. Council Supports Death with Dignity Act

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    “The nation’s capital would be the sixth jurisdiction to authorize the long-controversial practice that has gained increasing acceptance among elected officials and the public,” The Washington Post reported after the council’s Committee of the Whole approved the bill on Oct. 18. “Eight members — a majority of the 13-member council — have expressed support for the legislation.”

    The D.C. Council is tentatively scheduled to vote on the D.C. Death with Dignity Act on Nov. 1.

    The Post noted the unique historical significance and legislative path to authorize medical in dying in the district.

    “Council member LaRuby May (D-Ward 8), a supporter of the legislation, has said constituents from her poor and predominantly black district deserve the same health care and end-of-life options as people living on the West Coast …

    “Advocates are hoping that passage in the District will allow them to break through a racial barrier in their national campaign. To date, physician-assisted death has been authorized in Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont — states with mostly white populations. In June, a right-to-death law took effect in California, despite opposition from Latinos and Catholics.

    “But even if the council and mayor approve the legislation, Congress has the power to review and strike down D.C. laws — which could turn the emotionally charged issue into a broader political fight. A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) did not return requests for comment.”

    You can read the full story by clicking here.