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Tag Archive: Aid in Dying

  1. Medical Aid in Dying Act Wins Swift Assembly Committee Vote

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    In an historic vote, the Medical Aid in Dying Act won swift passage through the New York State Assembly Health Committee in a 14-11 vote, bringing the people of New York one step closer to having another medical option to reduce suffering at the end of life. The bipartisan vote occurred fewer than two weeks following the introduction of the Medical Aid in Dying Act, and represents the first time in the history of New York State that aid-in-dying legislation advanced through a legislative committee.

    Sponsored by Assembly member Amy Paulin and Senator Diane J. Savino, the Medical Aid in Dying Act (A10059/S7570) would allow terminally ill, mentally capable adults the option to request a prescription from a doctor for medication that they can, if they choose, self-administer to die peacefully if their suffering at the end of life becomes unbearable.

    “Lawmakers listened to their constituents in taking this historic step forward for expanding end-of-life options in New York State,” said Corinne Carey, New York State Campaign Director for Compassion & Choices. “The speed with which the Medical Aid in Dying Act made it through the Assembly health committee demonstrates strong momentum for making this option available to terminally ill New Yorkers.”

    An EaglePoint Strategies poll shows that three out of four New York voters across political and religious affiliations support access to aid in dying.

    “This bill is about patient autonomy and dignity,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, a co-sponsor of the bill. “It meets all the moral and legal standards we look to in reviewing legislation in the Health Committee. The law already allows adults with capacity to refuse life-saving treatment. Similarly, they should have the right to end their suffering through medication if that is their own choosing.”

    “This bill is about patient autonomy and dignity,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, a co-sponsor of the bill.  “It meets all the moral and legal standards we look to in reviewing legislation in the Health Committee.  The law already allows adults with capacity to refuse life-saving treatment.  Similarly, they should have the right to end their suffering through medication if that is their own choosing.”

    Rochester resident Susan Rahn, who has terminal cancer, said, “I’m very grateful that the aid-in-dying bill made it through the Health Committee so quickly. Access to aid in dying would ease my fear and anxiety about suffering in the end, and would help me live my final days to the fullest.”

    Assembly member Amy Paulin said, “Moving the bill out of the Health Committee is a great step forward in our efforts to allow medical aid in dying in New York.  I am very pleased that the committee members, under the leadership of the chair, Richard Gottfried, have enabled us to continue on the path to providing mentally competent, terminally ill adults the choice as to whether and when to end their own lives.  I look forward to engaging further in thoughtful dialogue with my colleagues so that we can enact into law this end of life option that 77% of New Yorkers support.”

    Gene Hughes with the Resource Center for Independent Living of Utica and disability rights advocate said, “Self-determination has always been the goal of people living with disabilities. We deserve the same end-of-life options as anyone else.”

    Medical aid in dying is currently authorized in five states – Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, and most recently, California.

    The Medical Aid in Dying Act is modeled after Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act and similar laws in other states:

    • It allows only qualified, terminally ill and mentally capable adults the option to request and obtain a prescription from their physician for medication that the patient can self-administer to bring about a peaceful and humane death.  Two physicians must confirm the prognosis is terminal.
    • Patients must be referred to a mental health professional for evaluation if deemed necessary by either physician.
    • It requires two witnesses to attest that the request is voluntary.
    • It protects physicians from civil or criminal liability, and from professional disciplinary action, if they fulfill an eligible individual’s request. Participation by doctors is fully voluntary.
    • It provides safeguards against any coercion of patients; it allows for criminal law prosecution for coercing or forging a request; and it honors a patient’s right to rescind the request.
    • It ensures that life insurance payments cannot be denied to the families of those who use the law.
    • The New York bill will specifically stipulate that any action taken in accordance with the bill will not constitute “suicide” or “assisted suicide.”
  2. Does God Really Want Us to Suffer Unrelenting Pain?

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    Specifically, does God want us to suffer unrelenting pain even when death is certain and imminent? It’s a provocative question. And one that features prominently as lawmakers consider medical aid-in-dying bills in states across the nation.

    The pro-suffering viewpoint? Well, here’s one take from Father Thomas Petri, academic dean of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. In a PBS Newshour story that aired in January 2016 he said:

    The church’s viewpoint on assisted suicide and euthanasia is that it’s never permissible to take a life, an innocent life, for the sake of alleviating suffering; that essentially you are killing a person to remove suffering from their lives …. when as a man of faith I have to say, on the contrary, it’s the sick who show us what it means to suffer well, to suffer beautifully, and who give us the opportunity to care for them as we would care for a suffering Jesus Christ.

    But this viewpoint is a misinterpretation of theology, argues United Church of Christ (UCC) Rev. Alex Vishio in a recent nationally syndicated opinion piece by ReligionNews.com. While representing UCC’s Central Atlantic Conference, Vishio advocated for Maryland’s Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer End-of-Life-Option Act in 2016. During multiple hearings on the bill, opponents rejected the requests of terminally ill witnesses who desire an option to end their suffering when death is looming. He summarizes the opponents’ arguments:

    …. suffering can be a divinely sanctioned means of dignifying the sufferer and edifying the observer.

    And he counters:

    But it should not be taken to mean that suffering for suffering’s sake is somehow a divine gift of ennoblement or test of character. To be sure, there are forms of struggle or travail that contribute to more worthy ends; thus, we rightly esteem doctors who labor under severe conditions to save lives in war-torn areas or admire parents who make extraordinary sacrifices to provide for their children.

    Still, it is the common impulse of people of goodwill everywhere to prevent or at least mitigate all forms of gratuitous suffering – i.e., suffering that cannot reasonably be held to serve a higher purpose.

    Many who oppose medical aid in dying argue that only God can decide when someone departs this Earth. Aid-in-dying supporters counter that as an individual approaches death they don’t have to cede decision-making capabilities: to a higher power, to their medical team or to their family. Ideally, however, the dying person will make paramount end-of-life decisions with and in synch with their higher power, their medical team and their family.

    As Rev. Vishio beautifully expresses it:

    Yet we also believe that quality of life is important to God. When that quality declines irreversibly, people who have a medical prognosis of six or fewer months left to live may morally choose to end that life by means that are, in their own way, an affirmation of divinely endowed human intelligence and dignity. 

    This is the essence of free will and autonomy.

    To read Rev. Vishio’s entire commentary, please click on this link.

  3. Latinos Need End-of-Life Options, Just Like Brittany Maynard

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    The original article was published May 20, 2016 in La Opinión, the leading Spanish-language daily newspaper in the United States.

    Para leer el editorial en español, haga click aqui.

    It has been nine years since my brother’s horrific death to renal cancer. Yet some members of my family still refuse to talk about his agonizing ordeal.

    This is not a surprise for a Catholic Latino family from the South Texas-Mexico border who refuses to break the cultural taboo of talking about death.

    Aren’t we the culture known for honoring our departed at the cemetery with their favorite foods and drinks? Yes. But when the time comes to talk about this natural process and how to prepare for it, Latinos, like most communities of color, simply shut down.

    My family is not alone. End-of-life conversations are not the topic of choice for Latinos, a community that often has the highest rates of illness, yet one least likely to complete advance directives or discuss medical interventions with loved ones.

    Latinos, the fastest growing minority in the United States, are also less likely than whites to use hospice, although there is evidence that the need for services may actually be greater, according to a report published by the American Hospice Association.

    But these disparities that impact the Latino community are something we can control, by communicating with our doctors about whether we would want to be kept alive with aggressive treatments if we become too sick to speak for ourselves.

    Compassion & Choices offers a variety of tools to help everyone manage their end-of-life care.

    End-of-life care

    It’s important to know that our doctors, nurses, social workers, aides and chaplains are here to serve us to make sure we get the care we want. And while they can give us recommendations and options for a care plan, we, along with our family and loved ones, are the only ones who can decide the way we want to die.

    We also have the option to choose hospice, which involves team-oriented medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support for terminally ill individuals and their loved ones.

    Palliative care is routinely offered to individuals dealing with pain, but it is an especially critical component in end-of-life care.

    We also have the option to decline further medical care that might only extend our dying process.

    Finally, some people may decide that they have had enough, and they want to avoid the pain and suffering associated with a prolonged death.

    There are several options for a peaceful death, and five states — California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington — -authorize the full range of options for individuals with a terminal illness and a prognosis of six months or less to live, including hospice, palliative care and medical aid in dying.

    Latinos are unique. But we are no different than anyone else at the end of life. We are all going to die, although it may not always be the way we want to.

    The Latino Brittany Maynard

    I recently traveled to Puerto Rico to meet Miguel Carrasquillo, a 35-year-old Catholic chef from Chicago who is suffering from horrific headaches, electric shocks and blindness from incurable brain cancer that has spread to his liver, stomach, testicles and other vital organs.

    Miguel recorded a video for Compassion & Choices. His last wish is to take medication to peacefully end his suffering so he can take his last breath holding his mother’s hand, an option not legally authorized in his home state of Illinois or in Puerto Rico, where his parents are caring for him.

    Miguel held back tears and made a public plea for legislators nationwide to support medical aid-in-dying laws throughout the United States. He urged Latinos to speak up about their end-of-life decisions.

    Miguel’s final message about end-of-life options was similar to the one made by Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old California woman with an incurable brain tumor who moved to Oregon in 2014 to access its Death With Dignity Act. Her plea started a national conversation about medical aid in dying – one that inspired the passage of the End of Life Option Act in California and the introduction of similar legislation in at least two dozen other states.

    Miguel hopes to have a similar impact inspiring Latinos to advocate for aid-in-dying laws. And in some way he is.

    *The original article was published in La Opinion, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States on May 20.

    Patricia A. González-Portillo is the national Latino communications manager and former California campaign communications director for Compassion & Choices. She is a past journalist for La Opinión [Los Angeles] , The [Riverside, CA] Press-Enterprise and The Brownsville [Texas] Herald.

  4. NY: Tell your legislators to support the Medical Aid in Dying Act

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    New York Campaign Director Corinne Carey sent the following email to our New York supporters this afternoon:

    Friend,

    On Tuesday, dozens of Compassion & Choices supporters came to Albany for our Spring Lobby Day and met with nearly one hundred legislators to tell them why medical aid in dying should be authorized here in the Empire State.

    We also made a significant announcement: our legislative sponsors in both chambers have introduced a unified Medical Aid in Dying Act. This legislation will allow a terminally ill, mentally capable adult to request medication to end life if their suffering becomes unbearable. And we’ve learned that the bill could soon face a pivotal committee vote.

    As the legislature prepares to vote on the Medical Aid in Dying Act, they need to hear from supporters like you. Click here to tell your legislators that you support the Medical Aid in Dying Act.

    During our meetings, most legislators were open to aid in dying and treated us and the issue with respect. But it was clear that they’ll need to hear personal stories and appeals from their constituents before they will feel comfortable supporting the legislation.

    Though we have broad support among New York residents, doctors, religious leaders, and terminally ill patients, the vote margin is sure to be close. Our opponents have used scare tactics, misinformation and flat-out lies to try to halt our momentum. We cannot let them succeed.

    Direct messages of support from voters played a huge role in last year’s passage of California’s End of Life Option Act. Have your voice heard so that New York can be next.

    If you’re comfortable sharing a personal story about how you came to support aid in dying, please include it in your letter. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for lawmakers to hear personal stories from their constituents about why this issue means so much to all of us.

    We’re setting a goal of 500 letters to the legislature by the end of next week. Click the link below to use our quick and easy tool to write a letter urging your legislators to support the Medical Aid in Dying Act:

    https://www.compassionandchoices.org/new-york/tell-your-legislator-support-the-medical-aid-in-dying-act/

    Thanks for all you do,

    Corinne

    Corinne Carey
    NY Campaign Director

  5. Compassion & Choices Political Director Charmaine Manansala Writes Piece on Discussing Death in AAPI Communities

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    In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Compassion & Choices Political Director Charmaine Manansala wrote a personal piece in AsAm News where she shares the story of the end of her father’s life:

    The days leading to my dad’s death were sad, confusing and chaotic. Adding to our grief and heartache was the stress of poor family communication about the end of life brought on by lack of planning, indecision and our Filipino culture. We just don’t talk about death before it smacks us in the face.

    My father had not made his end-of-life wishes known, and my mother hadn’t pressed him. She wanted to include all family members in decisions, but no one felt comfortable offering an opinion. After dad’s oncologist told us that “no other treatment will help,” my mother eventually decided that he would go to hospice, where he died ten days later.

    Sound familiar? This scenario plays out in hospitals and homes across the nation every day.

    Charmaine explains that Asian-American families are vulnerable to certain degenerative and chronic illnesses, and encourages Asian-American families to have the difficult discussions about death that are necessary in order to plan the care your loved ones desire.

    Take a look at Charmaine’s piece here, and use our Plan Your Care page to facilitate discussions with your loved ones.

  6. Medical Aid in Dying Act Introduced

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    Yesterday, dozens of volunteers turned out to the New York State Capitol to tell legislators why they support authorizing medical aid in dying. We held a press conference to announce an important breakthrough- sponsoring legislators combined the two medical aid-in-dying bills into a single bill, the Medical Aid in Dying Act.

    A combined bill will allow Compassion & Choices and supporters to focus on advancing a single piece of legislation. Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblymember Amy Paulin are the sponsors of the new legislation.

    After the press conference, Compassion & Choices volunteers from across the state held nearly 100 meetings with state legislators.

     

    Click here to learn more about the Medical Aid in Dying Act.

    Click here to read the full legislation.

    Click here to read remarks by supporter Gene Hughes.

    Click here to read marks by Rev. Dr. Bill Levering.

  7. Compassion & Choices Pres. Barbara Coombs Lee’s Statement on Canada Euthanasia Bill

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    The Canadian Press syndicated a story on April 26 conflating the Oregon Death with Dignity Act with Canada’s euthanasia legislation, C-14, which quoted one of Compassion & Choices’ national medical directors. The story and the quotes wrongly suggest Compassion & Choices would support euthanasia and legislation that would not require adults to be terminally ill to qualify for medical aid in dying.

    These suggestions are incorrect, and such support would violate two of Compassion & Choices’ seven principles for person-centered healthcare: autonomy and self-determination. As an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years, I saw many dying patients whose autonomy and self-determination were betrayed. Compassion & Choices would not violate these principles.

    Euthanasia and medical aid in dying are vastly different. Medical aid in dying gives the terminally ill person, and only that person, the option to decide, in consultation with their family and physician, and in accordance with their faith or spiritual values, if and when to take the medication to shorten an unbearable dying process. This is critically important: more than one-third of Oregonians who obtain aid-in-dying medication do not to take it. Nevertheless, they experience the palliative benefit of being able to make a decision about the duration and severity of pain and suffering in the dying process.

    Compassion & Choices advocates for medical aid in dying because the dying person controls the process from beginning to the end. We do not support euthanasia because someone else — not the dying person — may choose and act to cause death.

    Requiring that only terminally ill, mentally capable adults are eligible for medical aid in dying is a proven model for a safe and effective practice in Oregon and other U.S. states for more than 30 years. On the other hand, we respect the cultural differences of other nations, including our neighbors in Canada, and their sovereign right to craft laws their citizens’ support.

    The quotes cited in the context of The Canadian Press story about the Canada euthanasia bill do not represent our experience, our philosophy or our advocacy.

  8. Terminally Ill People of Color Need Option of Medical Aid in Dying

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    Photo: Patricia A. González-Portillo and her brother, Dr. Victor M. Gonzalez Jr., who died June 13, 2007.

    By Patricia A. González-Portillo

    My brother Victor could not hold a fork, talk or walk, by the time his renal cancer had metastasized to his brain.

    For almost two years, he endured tubes, needles and agony that his 32-year career as a doctor never prepared him for.

    It broke my heart to see my oldest brother, once a handsome and brilliant physician, become emaciated, suffering from unbearable pain that the hospice team that he once directed in South Texas could not alleviate.

    We prayed for a miracle.

    But Victor was dying in a very tortuous way.

    “There is nothing medicine can do for me now,” he whispered to me. “Please understand what I am going through.”

    I heard similar stories throughout Compassion & Choices’ campaign last year that led to the historic passage of California’s End of Life Option Act. When the law takes effect on June 9, it will give terminally ill adults the option to get prescription medication they can decide to take if their suffering becomes intolerable in the final stages of a deadly disease.

    Unfortunately, the California law won’t help Miguel Carrasquillo, a 35-year-old chef from Chicago who is suffering from an incurable brain tumor.

    Miguel’s story hit particularly close to home for me because we both are Catholic Latinos.

    I recently traveled to Puerto Rico, where Miguel’s parents are caring for him, to videotape his story for Compassion & Choices. He made a plea for legislators nationwide to support medical aid-in-dying laws throughout the United States.

    Miguel spoke of his last wish to ingest medication to peacefully end his suffering, so he could take his last breath holding his mother’s hand in the modest home he rents about 30 miles from San Juan.

    Medical aid in dying is not a legally authorized option in Miguel’s home state of Illinois or Puerto Rico.

    Miguel talked about his request that his fellow Latinos speak to their doctors so they will honor their patients’ end-of-life wishes, whether they agree with them or not. He urged Latinos to drop our cultural taboo of discussing death and medical aid in dying. He encouraged our brothers and sisters in Christ to stop referring to aid in dying as a sin.

    I held back tears as Miguel spoke about the horrific headaches, electric shocks and blindness from the brain cancer that has spread to his liver, stomach, testicles, and other vital organs.

    His words brought flashbacks of my brother Victor and the wrenching emotional pain I felt watching him suffer from the cancer that metastasized to his brain.

    I took a pause and collected myself as Miguel experienced a series of electric shocks that forced us to stop our taping for the day.

    Miguel smiled proudly when he learned he would become Compassion & Choices first terminally ill Latino in a bilingual video to advocate for medical aid in dying.

    Miguel often wonders if God helped cross our paths to help deliver his final message on end-of-life options.

    I truly believe He did.

    Patricia A. González-Portillo is the National Latino Communications Manager and former California campaign communications director for Compassion & Choices. She is a former journalist for La Opinión , The [Riverside, CA] Press-Enterprise and The Brownsville [Texas] Herald.

  9. Join us for a panel discussion in Scarsdale, New York

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    Check out this email we sent to our supporters in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley:

    Friend,

    If you want the freedom to make end-of-life decisions for yourself, based on your values, please join me for a panel event in Scarsdale. On April 25, Compassion & Choices will participate in a panel discussion on aid in dying hosted by The Journal News.

    The panel will include Stacey Gibson, our Lower Hudson Action Team leader, as well as Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a sponsor of aid-in-dying legislation, and David Leven, director of End of Life Choices New York. But the panel will also include three fervent opponents of medical aid in dying. We need supporters of expanded end-of-life options like you in attendance to support our panelists.

    WHAT: The Journal News panel on medical aid in dying
    WHERE: Scarsdale Public Library, 54 Olmsted Rd, Scarsdale
    WHEN: Monday, April 25 at 7:00 p.m.

    Click here to RSVP for the panel.

    A strong showing of supporters would make clear that momentum is building in New York for expanded end-of-life options. Your attendance is important to show lawmakers and faith leaders from across the state that there is broad support for legislation authorizing medical aid in dying for those who suffer needlessly at the end of life.

    Opponents are sure to be a visible presence at the meeting. Let’s work together to demonstrate that most New Yorkers want the freedom to make end-of-life decisions according to their values. Our supporters across the country have worn our iconic yellow t-shirts to stand out in the crowd; you can help highlight our numbers by wearing yellow to the event. We will also have shirts available for those who arrive early.

    Click the link below to RSVP:

    https://www.compassionandchoices.org/event/panel-event-in-scarsdale-new-york/

    I hope to see you there and I encourage you to bring a friend.

    Until then,

    Corinne

    Corinne Carey
    NY Campaign Director

  10. Canadian Government Follows Oregon Model for Aid-in-Dying Law

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    Today the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled legislation that would authorize the medical practice of aid in dying across all of Canada’s provinces and territories. The bill is similar to Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which took effect in 1997. A Canadian Supreme Court ruling last year required Parliament to implement an aid-in-dying law and, following an extension, the deadline to do so is June 6, 2016.

    The co-author of the Oregon aid-in-dying law is Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney who worked as an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years. Coombs Lee is also president of Compassion & Choices, the oldest and most active end-of-life advocacy group in the U.S., and today she issued this statement:

    “Canadians are soon to have a law that honors an individual’s dignity, freedom and personal values at the end of life, similar to what has served Oregonians so well for nearly 20 years. The Canadian legislation provides guidelines about who would be eligible for what they are calling “medically assisted death,” and we know that Oregon’s specific eligibility criteria give physicians here a lot of confidence in making that determination. In Oregon, a person must be terminally ill with a prognosis of 6 months or less to live, and that kind of clarity is essential for ensuring doctors participate and make this option widely accessible.”