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Tag Archive: Aid in Dying

  1. VICTORY: California Court Rejects Suit to Block Medical Aid-in-Dying Law

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    We are thrilled to announce that today a Riverside Superior Court ruled that  the new medical aid-in-dying law in California can continue to give terminally ill, mentally capable people with a prognosis of six months or less another end-of-life option. Compassion & Choices was the only advocacy group to weigh in on an effort to overturn the law and we urged the court to reject the plaintiffs’ motion, submitting a friend-of-the-court brief in July. The judge ruled the case can proceed in December but for now, the law remains protected.

    Just days after the California End of Life Option Act took effect in June, the Life Legal Defense Foundation, American Academy of Medical Ethics and some physicians filed a suit to overturn it.

    Compassion & Choices’ legal team worked closely with John Kappos, a Newport Beach partner in the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, to block the injunction filed by opponents that would have also suspended the End of Life Option Act as they attempted to overturn the law.

    Had the injunction been successful, it would have immediately blocked physicians from participating in medical aid in dying for the duration of the legal proceeding. The law that so many of us fought so hard for could have been nullified, and thousands of terminally ill Californians would have had their end-of-life options stripped away.

    Compassion & Choices advocates have been monitoring the case closely, waiting to learn their own fate and the fates of other terminally ill Californians.

    “This ruling is a victory for terminally ill Californians and their families because now they know they won’t have to live through needlessly painful and prolonged deaths,” said John Kappos, a Newport Beach partner in the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Compassion & Choices urging the court to deny the preliminary injunction. “While the court still has to decide the merits of the case, based on this ruling and prior court rulings in similar cases, we are confident we will prevail in the end.”


    “This ruling is a validation for the families of terminally ill Californians like Christy O’Donnell and Jennifer Glass who bravely fought until their last breath to pass the End of Life Option Act,’” said Compassion & Choices National Director of Legal Advocacy Kevin Díaz. “The court ruled that suspending the law would have done more harm to terminally ill Californians who want the option of medical aid in dying than the hypothetical harm to the physician plaintiffs who have not had any patients who have requested this option.”


    “After all the work I and other terminally ill adults did to pass the End of Life Option Act, this ruling is a great relief,” said Sacramento resident Elizabeth Wallner, who has stage IV colon cancer that has metastasized to her liver and lungs. “Now my son Nathaniel no longer faces the prospect of having to witness his mother die in agony.”


    “I thank God the court made the right decision,” said Matt Fairchild, a Catholic, 46-year-old, retired Army staff sergeant from Burbank living with terminal melanoma that has spread to his bones, lungs and brain. “Now my wife Ginger will not have to worry about watching me suffer because I still have the option of medical aid in dying.”


    “What a relief for my wife Debbie and me to know I do not have to fear an agonizing dying experience,” said 88-year-old Wolf Breiman, a retired landscape architect from Ventura who was diagnosed seven years ago with an incurable cancer of the white blood cells called multiple myeloma. “Now I can enjoy my life with her to the fullest in my remaining days.”


    “After watching my wife Michelle die in agony from cancer two years ago because she could not utilize medical aid in dying to die peacefully in her sleep, I am thankful the court did not take away this option for other terminally ill Californians,” said Tujunga resident Deborah Reuter-Zsarko. “Now terminally ill Californians can focus on living the rest of their days with their loved ones knowing this option is available if they need it.”


    “This ruling is a huge win for terminally ill adults who want the option of medical aid in dying to stop unbearable suffering and their physicians who want to offer this option,” said Dr. Wayne McKinny, a retired pediatrician with terminal bladder cancer who lives in Desert Hot Springs. “The court wisely decided not to intervene in these highly personal end-of-life care decisions and preserve the very delicate patient-physician relationship.”


    For more about Compassion & Choices’ campaign for the End of Life Option Act, go to https://www.endoflifeoption.org.

  2. ME: Join us for a screening in Boothbay Harbor

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    We sent the following invite to our supporters in Maine last week:


    I’d like to invite you to a Boothbay Harbor screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner. Join us to watch the film with other Compassion & Choices supporters.

    After serving two terms as one of the most popular governors in modern Washington State history, Gardner was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner tells the story of his involvement in the campaign which ultimately authorized medical aid in dying in Washington.

    WHAT: Screening of The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner and discussion
    WHERE: Harbor Theater, 185 Townsend Ave, Boothbay Harbor
    WHEN: Wednesday, August 17 at 1:00 p.m.

    Click here to email me or simply reply to this message to RSVP.

    In 2008, as his health deteriorated, Governor Gardner returned to the political spotlight as the driving force behind the ballot initiative that would authorize medical aid in dying. With the help of campaign strategists and volunteers, Gardner mounted a statewide campaign to generate the 225,000 signatures necessary to get the initiative on the ballot. Join us to watch the story of his inspiring work to expand end-of-life options in Washington.

    This screening is an opportunity to meet fellow advocates and members of your community to discuss the strategy for expanding access to the full range of end-of-life options here in Maine. As we’ve learned in other states, it takes hard work and perseverance to build support within the state legislature. We hope you will join us and become part of our talented and dedicated team.

    Speakers will include Val Lovelace, executive director of It’s My Death, and Lynne Tobin, a counselor.

    Email me at TAppleton@compassionandchoices.org or simply reply to this message to RSVP and join us.

    Thanks for all you do,


    Tim Appleton
    Regional Campaign Manager

  3. NJ: Tell your senator to co-sponsor the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act

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    Compassion & Choices New Jersey supporters received this email last week:

    I’m writing with some great news: Sen. Nicholas Scutari of Union County has agreed to sponsor the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act in the State Senate. That means we now have a bill in both chambers of the state legislature, a crucial step in our campaign to authorize medical aid in dying here in New Jersey.

    Of course, our work isn’t done. To ensure our success in the Senate, we need cosponsors who will work alongside Sen. Scutari to get this bill passed. And we’re asking supporters like you to urge your senator to cosponsor this important legislation.

    Click here to use our quick and easy tool to write a letter to your senator asking them to cosponsor the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act.

    Introducing the bill is just the first step to passage — it will be followed by hearings and then a vote. But a long list of cosponsors would send a signal to our opponents and the media that we have momentum and strong support in the Senate.

    Lawmakers are most interested in hearing from their constituents, so a letter from you has the potential to go a long way to convince your senator if they are undecided. Get involved today and tell your senators why medical aid in dying is so important.

    Please feel free to include a personal story in your message — it’s impossible to overstate the resonance of personal testimony when appealing to lawmakers.

    Click the link below to ask your senator to cosponsor medical aid-in-dying legislation:


    Direct contact with legislators played a huge role in last year’s passage of California’s End of Life Option Act. Make your voice heard and New Jersey could be next.

    Thanks for all you do,


    Ethan Andersen
    NJ Field Director

  4. Huntington Hospital Allows Physicians to Participate in California’s Medical Aid-in-Dying Law

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    Multi-State Implementation Manager Matt Whitaker

    Multi-State Implementation Manager Matt Whitaker

    In May, just before California’s End of Life Option Act took effect, I was discouraged to hear news that Huntington Hospital, a large care provider in Pasadena, would not allow its physicians to provide medical aid in dying. With this refusal to participate, thousands of terminally ill people would be forced to re-establish care at the time when they most needed the physicians with whom they had built deep trust.

    In the days and weeks following, Huntington became the subject of many of the conversations going on between our incredible volunteers and staff in California, and citizens who were outraged that their community made this decision. They spoke with their physicians, wrote letters to their local papers and called hospital representatives letting them know how important this option was to them and their loved ones.

    Today, I am proud to say that Huntington Hospital not only reconsidered their position prior to the law’s effective date, but also took an amazing stand Monday, sharing an open letter with their community in the pages of the Los Angeles Times letting them know that the hospital will support patients seeking this option by allowing their physicians to offer the full range of end-of-life options.

    This moment represents the incredible changes possible when community members, patients and physicians let their voices be heard and stand up with courage for the options they deserve. I thank everyone in California for their continued commitment to this important cause, and I thank Huntington Hospital for the example they have set.



  5. Aid-in-Dying Bill Introduced in New Jersey State Senate; Debate and Vote Expected this Fall

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    The Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (S2474) was introduced today by bill sponsor Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-22). The bill would allow a terminally ill, mentally capable adult the option to request a prescription for life-ending medication that can be self-administered – if and when the individual chooses – to end unbearable suffering and bring about a peaceful and humane death.

    “Aid in dying is about alleviating suffering and empowering those who are terminally ill to make their own health care decisions at the end of life,” said Senator Scutari. “Aid in dying works as intended in other states where it is authorized, and has been shown to improve overall end-of-life health care by promoting more candid end-of-life conversations between patients, families and physicians.”

    The companion Assembly bill was introduced by Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3) as bill number A2451 earlier this year. According to last year’s survey by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, 63 percent of New Jersey voters support aid-in-dying legislation.

    In the previous legislative session, the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act was passed out of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and passed the full Assembly in a historic vote on November 13, 2014. Bill sponsors hope to bring the bill up for another vote this fall and advocates intend to keep the pressure on.

    “We thank Senator Nicholas Scutari and Assemblyman John Burzichelli for their leadership on the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act,” said Ethan Andersen, New Jersey State Field Director for Compassion & Choices. “New Jerseyans want this legislation because they want the same end-of-life options that are available to millions of Americans in other states. Lawmakers will continue to hear from their constituents until aid in dying is authorized.”

    Five states currently authorize the option of medical aid in dying – California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont. In signing California’s aid in dying bill into law last October, Governor Jerry Brown wrote, “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”

    “Whether I used aid in dying or not, it would relieve my anxiety and fear of dying in pain,” said Laurie Wilcox of Clark, New Jersey, who has a terminal disease and advocates for the bill. “The option of aid in dying would allow me to live my final days to the fullest.”

    “Watching my two sons die in pain led me to believe we need more options at the end of life,” said Delores Lewis, a senior citizen advocate in Newark, NJ. “Terminally ill adults whose pain cannot be comforted by other options deserve the right to end their own lives peacefully, surrounded by the people they love.”

  6. NY: Join us at the State Fair

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    We sent this message to our New York supporters this week:

    I’m writing to ask you to join us for one of our most important events of the year. In just a few weeks, Compassion & Choices New York will have a booth at the New York State Fair in Syracuse.

    Our presence at the fair will help us extend our message about the importance of expanding end-of-life options to a huge audience of fair goers — last year, almost a million people attended the fair! This is a wonderful opportunity for us, and we’re asking for volunteers to sign up for two-hour shifts to help distribute information at our table.

    WHAT: Compassion & Choices table at the New York State Fair
    WHEN: Thursday, August 25 to Monday, September 5
    WHERE: New York State Fairgrounds, 581 State Fair Blvd, Syracuse Add your name to let us know you want to help at the New York State Fair, and we’ll be in touch with more information.

    If you don’t know much about the fair, let me tell you, it’s a ton of fun! Each day, there are concerts, events, competitions and delicious food on the fairgrounds. If you’re willing to give us just two hours of your day, we’ll pay for your admission to the fair. And don’t worry about the heat, we’ll be tabling in the air-conditioned exhibition center.

    As a volunteer, you’ll help distribute informational materials about our campaign to authorize medical aid in dying in New York. We’ll also have postcards ready so that fair attendees can express their support of aid in dying to their lawmakers on the spot.

    Before the event, we’ll distribute a recording training video that will include a briefing on our campaign, answers to frequently asked questions, and details about the legislation.

    Click the link below to sign up to help out at the New York State Fair. We’ll be in touch with more details:


    Thanks for all you do,


    Corinne Carey
    NY Campaign Director

  7. VT: A challenge to our state’s right-to-know law

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    The following message was sent to Vermont supporters this week:


    Last week, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and others filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging Vermont’s Patient Choice and Control at End of Life law violates both federal and state law.

    Even though the law does not require any doctor to participate in the aid-in-dying program, a small group of doctors is claiming that ensuring patients’ right to know about available healthcare infringes on the doctors’ rights.

    In reality, the law is meant to empower and protect patients. In fact, it is the only way some terminally ill patients learn about all of their end-of-life options, including aid in dying, here in Vermont. These opposition doctors, with the help of out-of-state interest groups, filed this lawsuit to try to take that peace of mind away.

    Compassion & Choices is monitoring the suit very closely and our legal team is considering taking action. We believe the law is on our side.

    Soon, you’ll hear from Kevin Díaz, Compassion & Choices’ national director of legal advocacy, who will lay out the stakes of this case in more detail. But it’s safe to say that this legal challenge is a threat to our work and seeks to upend protections for patients. We’ll keep you informed as the case moves its way through the courts.

    I’ll be sure to notify you of developments. Please know that we are doing everything we can to protect the law.

    In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to send me an email at lwaite-simpson@compassionandchoices.org and I’ll do my best to get you an answer.

    Talk to you soon,


    Linda Waite-Simpson
    VT State Director

  8. Join us for an organizing meeting in D.C.

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    Supporters in Washington D.C. received the following email message this week:


    I’m writing to give you an update on our campaign to authorize medical aid in dying here in the nation’s capital. As you may know, the Death with Dignity Act of 2015 (B21-38) which would authorize aid in dying for terminally ill people, was introduced last year by Councilmember Mary Cheh.

    Last July, the council’s Health and Human Services Committee held a hearing where supporters like you provided moving and powerful testimony in support of the legislation. Though there hasn’t been any legislative action since then, we’re preparing for a big push to convince Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Yvette Alexander to hold a vote this fall. It’s important that we are ready to implement our strategy to win a majority of votes on the DC council.

    Join us to help craft our plans for the next few months.

    WHAT: Compassion & Choices Washington DC Volunteer Meeting

    WHERE: Click the link below for more info.

    WHEN: August 9, 2016, 11:30 a.m.-1:-00 p.m.

    Click here to RSVP for this important event.

    At the meeting, we’ll go over what you can do to help our campaign here in DC, including reaching out to potential supporters, leading neighborhood volunteer teams, talking to your councilmember and more.

    Since our hearing last year, California became the fifth state to authorize aid in dying. It was supporters like you in California that convinced the legislature to take action on this crucial issue. And now, we need your help to make medical aid in dying an option in the nation’s capitol.

    Click here to join us in DC.



    Donna Smith
    DC Legislative and Field Manager

  9. On the 26th Birthday of the Americans With Disabilities Act, C&C Remembers Its Champion, Andrew Batavia

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    Andrew Batavia (far left) at the 1991 signing, by the U.S. Attorney General, of the ADA regulations he wrote. (Photo courtesy Batavia family.)

    Andrew “Drew” Batavia was among the 1,000 or more people gathered on the White House lawn on July 26, 1990, watching President George H.W. Bush sign the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. He was also there a year later when Attorney General Richard Thornburgh signed the Act’s regulations into a law – regulations Andrew himself had authored.

    As a lawyer with a graduate degree in health services, Andrew had long advocated for disability rights and testified in support of the ADA. So he welcomed the opportunity to help the Justice Department draft the Act’s regulations dealing with access to places of public accommodation – banks, hotels, restaurants, etc. – during his stint as a White House Fellow.

    At age 16, Andrew Batavia survived a terrible car accident that left him without the use of his arms or legs. He undertook a full year of rehabilitation after the accident and went on to graduate from high school as president of his class. He proceeded to earn a law degree, a public health degree, and to become a respected scholar and expert (and prolific writer) on the intersection of health policy and disability rights. A dazzling career, the result of sheer will, intellect and energy.

    Andrew died in 2003, at the young age of 45. Several years after his death, his family discovered a memoir he had begun, accompanied by his request that they complete and publish it for him. And so they did.

    Andrew Batavia’s Wisdom From A Chair: Thirty years of Quadriplegia, is now published and available for purchase online.

    While always committed to expanding rights and autonomy for people like himself living with disabilities, Andrew Batavia also became increasingly invested in seeing the right to self-determination extended to the end of life. In the 1990s he began actively advocating for medical aid in dying and wrote amicus briefs in two landmark legal cases: Washington v. Glucksburg in the U.S. Supreme Court and Krischer v. McIver in the Florida Supreme Court.

    During these legal battles, Batavia found himself coming up against a group called Not Dead Yet. This organization, founded in 1996, calls itself “a national, grassroots disability rights group that opposes legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia as deadly forms of discrimination against old, ill and disabled people.”

    This group’s members, seeking to represent all Americans living with disabilities, protested outside the U.S. Supreme Court while Andrew Batavia advocated inside for the right to aid in dying. As his brother Mitchell writes in Wisdom from A Chair, “I could only imagine Drew standing tall on his principles while a segment of the disability community wanted him sitting down.”

    Recognizing the power of this opposition from the disability community, Andrew founded a disability rights organization of his own, which would publicly advocate in favor of medical aid in dying – for people with disabilities. It was called AUTONOMY, and its co-founder was Hugh Gallagher, a polio survivor as well as a friend and former board member of Compassion & Choices.

    Before AUTONOMY was formally founded, Batavia and Gallagher published an open letter in 1999 in the newsletter of the Independent Living Institute, which read, in part:

    “… [W]e believe certain persons and organizations who claim to speak for persons with disabilities may have seriously misrepresented the views of many of us. Public attention in recent years has focused on issues surrounding end-of-life care. We believe this is all to the good …. We wish to make clear that we do not support the practices of Jack Kevorkian any more than we support the objectives of those who would deny us the right to control our lives, either during the prime or at the end …. We do not think that people with disabilities, who have struggled for many years to have control over their own lives and bodies, would or should give up this decision-making autonomy at the end of life.”

    Still, decades later, organizations like Not Dead Yet continue to oppose medical aid in dying in states where this option is advancing, still claiming to represent the interests of Americans living with disabilities. But no one group can speak for an entire community, because no community is a monolith. In fact, when it comes to the matter of aid in dying, polls show that voters with disabilities support this end-of-life option in the same majority as other Americans. They do because they know that aid-in-dying bills modeled on Oregon’s nearly 20-year-old Death With Dignity Law have provisions built in that protect all vulnerable people – elderly, poor, disabled or ill.

    Anyone who believes in autonomy and self-determination owes an enormous debt to Andrew Batavia, including those of us who believe these values matter at the very end of life, too. Thanks to his new memoir, Andrew’s clear voice and vigorous advocacy for Americans living with disabilities can still be heard.


  10. CA Court Urged to Reject Request to Block Medical Aid-in-Dying Law

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    A California Superior Court today accepted a friend-of-the court brief filed by Compassion & Choices urging the court to reject a request for a preliminary injunction to stop implementation of the state’s new medical aid-in-dying law.

    The End of Life Option Act gives terminally ill adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take to die peacefully and quickly in their sleep if their end-of-life suffering becomes unbearable. The law took effect June 9.

    The preliminary injunction request follows a failed attempt to get a temporary restraining order in a suit to overturn the law by the Life Legal Defense Foundation, American Academy of Medical Ethics and several physicians. The Riverside County Superior Court currently is scheduled to hold a hearing to consider the injunction request on July 25.

    “In the absence of medical aid in dying allowed by the End of Life Option Act, patients and families will be forced to live through painful and prolonged deaths,” states the brief filed by John Kappos, a Newport Beach partner in the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, and Compassion & Choices National Director of Legal Advocacy Kevin Díaz. “A preliminary injunction should be denied because the balance of harms weighs heavily in favor of terminally ill patients…and against Plaintiffs’ unsubstantiated and speculative allegations of harm. Their alleged harm is pure imagination.”

    Plaintiffs admit—as they must—that the Act was designed with ample procedures that protect patients from exactly those harms that Plaintiffs are concerned with,” the brief concludes. “Plaintiffs provide absolutely no evidence showing physicians would abandon their medical ethics and professional standards because the Act provides them with some kind of immunity. Plaintiffs have failed to support their application with any credible evidence that they—or anyone—will be harmed if the Act goes into effect.”

    Click here to read Compassion & Choices’ friend of the court brief.