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Tag Archive: Aid in Dying

  1. Groups File Motion to Strike Agreement that May Limit Doctor-Patient Conversations about End-of-Life Care

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    Compassion & Choices and Patient Choices Vermont today filed a motion to strike from the court record the state’s Consent Agreement with physician plaintiffs in a dismissed federal lawsuit seeking to limit information provided to patients under Vermont law. The case sought to weaken the physicians’ duty to inform patients about all of their end-of-life care options. The groups oppose the Consent Agreement because it causes confusion about physician obligations to patients under Vermont law.

    “Act 39 enables people near the end of life to intentionally live their remaining weeks or months knowing that they have the means for a simple and peaceful ending. Our goal is to make sure that all Vermonters know about this option and can make fully informed decisions about their end-of-life choices,” said Betsy Walkerman, president of Patient Choices Vermont. “That’s why it is critical that the court clarify the record and remove the Consent Agreement.”

    “The Consent Agreement appeared to suggest legal and professional obligations that apply to medical providers to counsel or refer patients when they ask about medical options at the end of life somehow didn’t apply to plaintiffs,” said Kevin Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices. “The court should strike this agreement because it impacts the rights of patients by attempting to establish an unreasonably restrictive interpretation of Vermont law that directly contradicts the plain language of the statute and the court’s order.”

    Last April, U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford dismissed the suit filed in July 2016 against the state of Vermont by Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of the plaintiffs, Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and Tennessee-based Christian Medical and Dental Association. The groups claimed Vermont’s Patient’s Bill of Rights for Palliative Care and Pain Management violated their religious rights by requiring doctors to discuss all end-of-life care options with their patients. Judge Crawford’s ruling concluded the Patient’s Bill of Rights for Palliative Care and Pain Management and another Vermont law, Limitation of Medical Malpractice Action Based on Lack of Informed Consent, “continue to govern physicians in all aspects of their care of the terminally ill. Under these provisions, physicians must inform patients about all choices and options relevant to their medical treatment.” [See page 8 of opinion here].

    The plaintiffs then negotiated a Consent Agreement with the Vermont attorney general without consulting parties to the lawsuit, including Compassion & Choices and Patient Choices Vermont. The plaintiffs filed the Consent Agreement with the court on May 5, the day of the appeal deadline, without notifying the attorney general, Compassion & Choices or Patient Choices Vermont.

    The Consent Agreement and Stipulation states:

    1. Plaintiffs and similarly situated medical providers do not have a legal or professional obligation to counsel and refer patients for the Patient Choice at End of Life process under [Vermont’s Patient Choice at End of Life Act (Act 39)]…the Patient’s Bill of Rights…or the Informed Consent Act…
    2. Plaintiffs and similarly situated medical professionals have a professional obligation to provide relevant and accurate information regarding the Patient Choice at End of Life process upon a patient’s request, or if unwilling to provide the information personally, to make a referral or otherwise reasonably ensure that the patient will be able to obtain relevant and accurate information about the process … Plaintiffs hereby waive their right to seek reconsideration of, or file notice of appeal … .

    In response to a request by Compassion & Choices and Patient Choices Vermont to clarify physician obligations under Vermont law as described in the Consent Agreement, the attorney general’s office wrote:

    “In accordance with the Consent Agreement, the State has included a revised question and answer for “Are doctors required to tell patients about this medical aid in dying?” on the “frequently asked questions” section of the Vermont Department of Health’s website about Act 39 … Nothing in the Consent Agreement gives up any legal rights of patients [but] The State will not oppose a motion to strike the Consent Agreement from the district court’s docket … ”

    “By stipulating that ‘medical providers do not have a legal or professional obligation to counsel and refer patients for the Patient Choice at End of Life process,’ the stipulating parties are causing confusion about the rights of patients to such counseling and referral,” said David Bassett of WilmerHale, co-counsel on behalf of Compassion & Choices, Patient Choices Vermont and two Vermont patients, Benedict Underhill and Monica van de Ven (who died peacefully in January by utilizing Vermont’s Patient Choice at End of Life Act). “By limiting Act 39’s informed consent obligation — a critical aspect of the law — the Consent Agreement not only interferes with the prerogatives of Vermont courts and the legislature, but also impedes the successful implementation of the law,” concluded Bassett.

  2. A Federal Attack on D.C.’s Medical Aid-in-Dying Law Threatens All Such Laws

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    Alyson Lynch, C&C Marketing and Communications Assistant

    For nearly two years, the elected officials and residents of the District of Columbia debated the D.C. Death with Dignity Act as an option for terminally ill adults to peacefully end unbearable suffering at the end of life. They held or participated in hearings, rallies, protests and town halls, and wrote to their local papers and councilmembers. After this democratic process, the D.C. Council passed the law by an 11-2 vote last November, and it went into effect July 17. Six states through either ballot initiatives, legislation or the courts have authorized medical aid-in-dying, including California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

    Despite widespread support for medical aid in dying across the nation and in the District, congressional opponents have made two attempts to repeal the D.C. Death with Dignity Act. Their latest power grab is an amendment, passed by the House Appropriations Committee and introduced by U.S. Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), attempting to revoke the law. Three members of Congress from states that passed aid-in-dying laws voted against an option their constituents already have access to: Ken Calvert (R-CA), David Valadao (R-CA) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA). The residents and representatives of all authorized states should be alarmed about this congressional attack — and the implication that Congress has the right to interfere with medical aid-in-dying laws across the country.

    If this amendment succeeds, it could encourage opponents to seek a nationwide ban of medical aid in dying despite the combined 40 years of successful experience with the practice in the United States. This federal intrusion isn’t unprecedented: Congress has attempted to prohibit medical aid in dying by banning the use of federally controlled substances for this purpose by introducing the Legal Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 1998 and the Pain Relief Promotion Act of 1999. The constituents from every state where medical aid in dying is authorized must fight back against this abuse of power, not only for D.C. residents, but to ensure their own right to access this end-of-life option should they want it someday.

  3. Sponsor of Bill to Repeal D.C. Medical Aid-in-Dying Law Fails Fact Check Test

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    Kim Callinan, C&C Chief Program Officer

    (Washington, D.C. – July 27, 2017) Supporters of D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act released a fact check video showing the sponsor of an amendment the House Appropriations Committee recently approved to repeal the D.C. law made numerous false claims about the law. The House Appropriations Committee voted 28-24 on July 13 to approve the amendment by Rep. Andy Harris (Md.). The law took effect on July 17 and will remain in effect only if supporters convince members of Congress not to include the amendment in the final federal spending bill for fiscal year 2018.

    Medical aid-in-dying laws give mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to request and obtain a doctor’s prescription for medication they can take to end unbearable suffering and die peacefully in their sleep. California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont have 40 years of collective experience with medical aid-in-dying laws with no evidence of misuse.

    “This video fact check shows that Dr. Harris does not understand how the D.C. Death with Dignity Act works. Either he didn’t read the law or he is deliberately fear mongering to generate support for his amendment to repeal it,” said Compassion & Choices Chief Program Officer Kim Callinan.

    The fact check video is posted at: bit.ly/RepHarrisFactCheck and the video transcript is posted at: bit.ly/RepHarrisTranscript. It corrects numerous false claims Dr. Harris made when he introduced his amendment on July 13 to invalidate the D.C. Death with Dignity Act. Below is a brief summary of the fact check video:

    Harris falsely claimed medical aid in dying is “suicide” when the law text specifically states it doesn’t authorize suicide and the American Psychological Association says there are “profound psychological differences” between the two acts.

    • Harris falsely insinuates that 25 percent of people who request medical aid in dying are doing so because they are depressed but the law specifies no person diagnosed with “depression causing impaired judgment” can get a prescription.
    • Harris falsely claimed tourists can utilize the law by injecting the medication when only D.C. residents can utilize the law and the law prohibits injection of the medication, specifying the person must ingest it by themselves.
    • Harris falsely claimed the D.C. law is “worse” policy than other medical aid-in-dying laws when the D.C. Death with Dignity Act has the same core, dozen safeguards as the law it is modeled after, Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.

    “Dr. Harris and his congressional allies are abusing the appropriations process to try to invalidate this law and prevent dying D.C. residents from making their own private end-of-life care decisions, in consultation with their family, their doctors and their faith leaders,” concluded Callinan. “We are counting on members of Congress, especially in the six states with medical aid-in-dying laws and the 26 states where such legislation has been introduced, to protect D.C. residents’ personal freedoms and strip this amendment from the appropriations bill.”

    May Gallup poll shows nearly three out of four Americans (73%) support medical aid in dying, including 55 percent of weekly churchgoers and 60 percent of conservatives.

    Medscape online survey last fall shows 7,500 doctors nationwide from 25 medical specialties nationwide support medical aid in dying by a 2-1 margin (57% to 29%).

    D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed The Death with Dignity Act in February, after the D.C. Council passed it in November by an 11-2 vote. A 2015 Lake Research poll shows two-thirds of D.C. residents (67%) support the law.

  4. Support for Medical Aid in Dying Rising Among Doctors

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    Alyson Lynch, C&C Marketing and Communications Assistant

    Physician support is a vital component of passing and implementing medical aid-in-dying laws, and according to two recent online surveys by Medscape, it’s only been growing in recent years. Medscape’s latest online survey found that 58 percent of 300 doctors in states without medical aid-in-dying laws said they had been in a situation in which they “wished the patient could have taken advantage of such a practice.” The previous Medscape survey in fall 2016 found 57% out of more than 7,500 physicians from 25 specialities nationwide said medical aid in dying should be an option for mentally capable, terminally ill patients, an increase from 54 percent in 2014 and 46 percent in 2010.

    Polling data isn’t the only evidence of a tidal change in physicians’ attitudes toward medical aid in dying. In the past year, eight medical societies have voted to take neutral or supportive positions on this end-of-life care option. Physicians are standing up for their patients in authorized jurisdictions like Colorado and the District of Columbia (Colorado Medical Society and the Medical Society of the District of Columbia), and in states where the option is being debated, like Nevada and Maine (the Nevada State Medical Association and Maine Medical Association).

    Sometimes, the fight to authorize aid in dying is personal for physicians. Dr. Roger Kligler,an outspoken advocate for medical aid in dying in his home state of Massachusetts, is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by Compassion & Choices arguing that existing state laws and the state constitution authorize medical aid in dying. He also lobbied the Massachusetts Medical Society to survey current members on the topic, which passed at the end of 2016. For him, the issue is crucial, as he has metastatic, incurable prostate cancer.

    When he spoke to Medscape this July, Dr. Kligler argued that authorizing medical aid in dying can spur end-of-life care discussions between terminally ill adults, their families and doctor, increasing the use of hospice and palliative care. He concluded: “Please put yourself in my shoes and ask what options you would want for you or your family members having a difficult death.”

     

  5. Compassion & Choices Launches Bilingual Access Campaign to Educate D.C. Residents about Death With Dignity Act

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    Terminally ill DC resident Mary Klein and her dog Adina

    Compassion & Choices today launched a bilingual campaign to educate terminally ill D.C. residents, their families and medical providers about the benefits and requirements of D.C.’s new medical aid-in-dying law that took effect yesterday (Monday, July 17). The mayor’s announcement came four days after the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment that would invalidate the D.C. law if Congress passes the amendment and President Trump signs it into law, but for now the law remains in effect.

    D.C. and six other states representing 18 percent of the nation now authorize medical aid in dying: California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. Medical aid-in-dying laws give mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or fewer to live the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication that they can decide to take to end unbearable suffering by dying peacefully in their sleep.

    “The congressional threat to repeal D.C.’s law will not impact our commitment to partner with the D.C. Department of Health in a bilingual campaign to help D.C. residents access this law and to teach healthcare providers about the practice of medical aid in dying,” said Kat West, National Director of Policy & Programs for Compassion & Choices. “We will do everything in our power to ensure that terminally ill adults in D.C. can access this end-of-life care option to end intolerable suffering, just as we have done in every other jurisdiction with a medical aid-in-dying law.”

    “I cannot tell you how relieved I am that Mayor Bowser is promptly implementing this law,” said D.C. resident Mary Klein, who wants the option of medical aid in dying to peacefully end her suffering from terminal ovarian cancer. “I do not know if I will use this option, but knowing I have it gives me an enormous sense of relief. I urge Congress not to repeal the law because it would devastating to terminally ill D.C. residents like me who want this option.”

    The D.C. Council passed D.C.’s medical aid-in-dying law, the D.C. Death with Dignity Act, by a veto-proof 11-2 margin on Nov. 15, 2016. A 2015 Lake Research poll shows two-thirds of D.C. residents (67%) support the law. A May Gallup poll shows nearly three out of four Americans (73%) support medical aid in dying, including 55 percent of weekly churchgoers and 60 percent of conservatives. A Medscape online survey last fall shows 7,500 doctors nationwide from 25 medical specialties nationwide support medical aid in dying by a 2-1 margin (57% to 29%).

    As part of its D.C. Access Campaign, Compassion & Choices will provide education and technical assistance to doctors, healthcare providers and terminally ill adults about all the end-of-life care options to relieve intolerable suffering, including hospice, palliative care and medical aid in dying. Information is available in English and Spanish.

    Terminally ill D.C. residents, their families, physicians and pharmacists can get information about the law by visiting: compassionandchoices.org/district-of-columbia. Physicians will be able to access Compassion & Choices’ free Doc2Doc consultation program at by callling 800.247.7421 or sending an email to  [email protected]org to speak to doctors with years of experience in end-of-life care, including medical aid in dying.

    “It is very important for doctors to understand how to respond to a terminally ill person’s request for medical aid in dying,” said Dr. David Grube, a national medical director for Compassion & Choices, who has written aid-in-dying prescriptions authorized by Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act that is the model for D.C.’s laws. “The doctor’s response should include assessing the patient’s mental capability to make an informed decision, reviewing the patient’s previous treatment, and offering alternatives to medical aid in dying, such as hospice and palliative care.”

    Pharmacists will be able to access Compassion & Choices free Pharmacist2Pharmacist consultation program by calling 503.943.6517 or sending an email to [email protected].

  6. Terminally Ill Hawai`i Man Plans to Appeal Dismissal of Medical Aid-in-Dying Case Cites Overwhelming Support for End-of-Life Care Option by Hawai`i Voters

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    Plaintiff John Radcliffe

    A terminally ill Hawai`i man plans to appeal a ruling last night by a state court judge who dismissed his lawsuit that asserts the state constitution and existing state statutes allow doctors to practice medical aid in dying. Medical aid in dying gives mentally capable, terminally ill adults the option to get a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take to die peacefully in their sleep to end unbearable suffering.

    On Friday, July 14, one day after a hearing in the case on Thursday, July 13, First Circuit Court of Hawai`i Judge Keith K. Hiraoka ruled the case did not pass the legal requirements to proceed. The court felt bound by the Hawai‘i Supreme Court’s procedural ruling from a 2015 case and noted that whether this case raised special circumstances that would justify declaratory relief “is for the appellate courts to decide.”

    “I do not have the luxury of time to appeal this ruling, but I have no other choice but to pursue it,” said lead plaintiff John Radcliffe, a Honolulu resident who has incurable colon cancer that has metastasized to his liver.  Mr. Radcliffe had major surgery on July 10, has undergone 48 rounds of chemotherapy, has been to the emergency room 15 times, and has had three extended hospital stays. “I am hopeful the court ultimately will confirm the legality of medical aid in dying because it will give me the peace of mind knowing I won’t have to needlessly suffer at life’s end and I can die peacefully.”

    “I know from professional experience that medical aid in dying is a necessary palliative care option to end suffering for terminally ill patients when no other palliative treatment can provide relief,” said Dr. Charles Miller, a board certified physician in internal medicine, medical oncology, and hematology who practices in Honolulu. “Most terminally ill patients won’t need this end-of-life option, but they would get great comfort knowing they could use it if they need it.”

    According to a Nov. 2016 statewide survey by Anthology Marketing Group, 80 percent of Hawai`i voters support medical aid in dying, across all demographics, including age, ethnicity, religion and geographic location. Despite this overwhelming support, the Hawai`i legislature failed to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act (SB 1129) during the 2017 session.

    “The situation is urgent for the untold number of dying people like John Radcliffe in Hawai`i, who face intolerable suffering,” said John-Anderson L. Meyer, Esq., a director of the Honolulu law firm Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing, which represents the plaintiffs on behalf of Compassion & Choices. “We are currently reviewing the court’s ruling and will evaluate all available options, including an appeal.”

    “We will consider an appeal of this ruling because our suit actually complements the Hawai`i legislative campaign to pass Hawaii’s Medical Aid in Dying Act,” said Mary Steiner, Hawai`i campaign manager for Compassion & Choices. “We remain 100 percent committed to helping our legislative champions enact Hawai`i’s Medical Aid in Dying Act into law as soon as possible.”

    “The reality is that no one knows how long it will take to complete the legislative or legal processes,” said Kevin Díaz, Esq., national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices. “But we would be shortchanging dying Hawaii residents like John Radcliffe, who also has testified in support of Hawaii’s Medical Aid in Dying Act, if we put all of our eggs in one basket, and did not consider appealing this ruling.”

    Compassion & Choices won a similar case 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.”

    Six states have authorized medical aid in dying: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, California, and Colorado, as well as the District of Columbia. There is no evidence of misuse of this end-of-life care option in 40 years of collective experience in these seven jurisdictions, which represent 18 percent of the nation’s population.

  7. Congressional Threats to Block D.C. Medical Aid-in-Dying Law Could Lead to Nationwide Ban of Such Laws

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    Power Grab Would Violate D.C. Autonomy, Alienate Supporters of Medical Aid in Dying

    Supporters of D.C.’s medical aid-in-dying law warned that if Congress uses its appropriations power to block funding to implement the law, it could spur opponents to seek a nationwide ban of such laws. Medical aid-in-dying laws give mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to get a doctor’s prescription for medication they can take to die peacefully in their sleep, if they decide their suffering is unbearable.

    On Feb. 19, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed D.C.’s medical aid-in-dying law, “The Death with Dignity Act,” after the D.C. Council passed it by an 11-2 vote. A 2015 Lake Research poll shows two-thirds of D.C. residents support the law. Despite the overwhelming support for the law, Rep. Andy Harris (Md.) and Sen. James Lankford (Okla.), members of the House and Senate appropriations committees, respectively, have threatened to block funding to implement it.

    “Blocking funding to implement the law would violate the autonomy of D.C. residents and cause needless suffering for terminally ill adults who need this end-of-life option,” warned Compassion & Choices Chief Program Officer Kim Callinan during a Capitol Hill news conference to oppose congressional funding threats to thwart various D.C. laws hosted by D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Mayor Bowser.

    “It would also set a dangerous precedent that could embolden congressional opponents to ban medical aid in dying nationwide,” added Callinan.

    Such a nationwide ban would invalidate laws in six states representing 18 percent of the nation’s population, where medical aid in dying has been practiced safely for more than 30 combined years: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, California and Colorado.

    Medscape online survey last fall shows doctors support medical aid in dying by a 2-1 margin, 57 percent to 29 percent. In addition, 58 percent of doctors in states without medical aid-in-dying laws said they had “been in a situation where [they] wished the patient could have taken advantage of such a practice.”

    May Gallup poll shows 73 percent of Americans support this end-of-life care option, including 55 percent of weekly churchgoers and 60 percent of conservatives.

    “If Congress made the unprecedented power grab to ban medical aid in dying nationwide, it would risk the wrath of its constituents,” concluded Callinan.

  8. Compassion & Choices New York Applauds New York State Academy of Family Physicians for Voting to Support Medical Aid in Dying Act

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    Compassion & Choices New York campaign director Corinne Carey today applauded the New York State Academy of Family Physicians and its Congress of Delegates for voting overwhelmingly to support the New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act (S3151/A2383), sponsored by Senator Diane Savino (IDC-Staten Island) and Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Westchester). Prior to this vote, the NYSAFP had a neutral stance on medical aid in dying.

    “This exciting news demonstrates that the medical community is moving consistently and decisively to support medical aid in dying as a legitimate end-of-life-option for all terminally ill, mentally capable New Yorkers, and an appropriate option for a small number of individuals and their families,” Carey said. “The six-thousand-member NYS Academy of Family Physicians brings its expertise, high standing among medical professionals and enlightened leadership to the effort to authorize medical aid in dying as an option for New York. We thank the Academy and welcome their efforts on behalf of New Yorkers who overwhelmingly support medical aid in dying.”

    Dr. Sarah Nosal, President of the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, said: “Family Physicians are unique in that we are blessed to care for patients and their families throughout the lifespan, quite literally from cradle to grave.  Supporting the authorization of medical aid in dying is commensurate with the Family Physician’s desire to empower our patients not only in their pursuit of wellness, their management of chronic disease, but also the alleviation of suffering when faced with a terminal illness.”

     Among the reasons to support medical aid in dying cited in NYSAFP’s resolution are:

    • The NYSAFP currently maintains a “neutral” position on state or federal legislation regarding aid in dying by means of a patient-directed, patient-administered prescription medication.
    • A position of “neutrality” can have negative consequences for patients and can be viewed as patient abandonment.
    • The Medical Aid in Dying Act would allow a terminally ill, mentally capable adult to ask for a prescription for medication that they can take to bring about a peaceful death at a time of their choosing – or never – should suffering become unbearable at the end of life, and likewise provide criminal and civil immunity for physicians who provide such prescriptions if they comply with the requirements of the law.
    • September 2015 poll of New York residents showed 73.5% in agreement with the statement, “If I am terminally ill, the decision about whether or not I use medication to speed my death should be up to me and my family, under a doctor’s care.”
    • In Oregon, end-of-life care improved after implementation of its Death with Dignity law.
    • Rates of assisted dying in Oregon showed no evidence of heightened risk for the elderly, women, the uninsured, the poor, the disabled or other vulnerable groups.
    • The mission of the NYSAFP is to “improve the health of patients, families and communities by serving members of the Academy through education and advocacy.”
    • NYSAFP supports “physicians’ right to refuse to participate in any action against his or her personal code of ethics is essential.”

    The New York State Academy of Family Physicians represents more than 6,000 Family Physicians and medical students throughout the state.  The Academy provides education and advocacy for member physicians and is a recognized leader in physician education and health care policy in New York.

    In December 2016, Medscape, a leading medical website offering the latest medical news and expert perspective for physicians and healthcare professionals, issued its “Medscape Ethics Report 2016: Life, Death, and Pain,” which found that “a growing number of US physicians now endorse the idea of physician-assisted dying for terminally ill patients.”  Currently, physicians support medical aid in dying by a 57-29 percent margin, up dramatically from 46-41 percent in 2010.

    “We look forward to working with the NYSAFP to help continue to educate New Yorkers about end-of-life options and to mobilize the overwhelming support of New Yorkers for medical aid in dying to convince the Governor and Legislature is year New York should join six other state and the District of Columbia in making medical aid in dying for those New Yorkers who seek this option,” Carey said. “In addition to NYSAFP, I also want to offer heartfelt thanks to the physicians who helped make this resolution a reality through their efforts and advocacy.”

    More information about Compassion & Choices NY’s efforts to pass medical aid in dying is available here.  New Yorkers can voice their support for medical aid in dying with state legislators here.

  9. Delaware Residents Urge State Legislators to Pass End of Life Options Act

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    Compassion & Choices and its Delaware supporters today met with Delaware legislators at the state Capitol today to urge them to authorize the end-of-life care option of medical aid in dying. Medical aid in dying gives mentally capable, terminally ill individuals with a prognosis of six months or less to live the option to request, obtain and self-ingest medication to die peacefully in their sleep if their suffering becomes unbearable.

    The bill, the End-of-Life Options Act (HB 160), is authored by Rep. Paul Baumbach (23rd district) and three co-sponsors, Rep. Bryon Short (7th district), Sen. David Sokola (8th district) and Sen. Margaret Henry (2nd district). The legislation passed out of the House Health and Human Development Committee by an 8 – 6 vote on June 7. The Committee vote to advance the bill clears the way for the full Delaware House of Representatives to consider it.

    “What brought me here today is my desire to make a difference with the limited time I have left,” stated Wilmington resident, Tom LaFollette, who is living with Kaposi’s sarcoma, a terminal, opportunistic infection from HIV/AIDS. “I wanted to let my legislators know that for terminally ill, mentally capable residents of Delaware, this issue is not a matter of ‘policy;’ it is ‘personal.’”

    “If our lawmakers don’t act to support this bill now, next year might be too late for me, as well as the countless others who await this decision,” added LaFollette. “The End of Life Options Act will provide great comfort to many people whose sole wish is to have more options at end of life.”

    “While we recognize it can be difficult to talk about death and dying, it’s critically important to help lawmakers understand the real stories of real Delawareans and address concerns they may have,” said Tim Appleton, multi-state campaign and outreach manager at Compassion & Choices. “Lawmakers should understand the very real human cost of legislative inaction on the Delaware End of Life Options Act. Many of our advocates will not be able to come back next year. For them, next year will be too late.”

    “As a spiritual leader and church pastor, it is my belief that when suffering and incapacity induced by terminal illness overwhelm our ability to bear it, a compassionate
    alternative must be available to us. That is why I support medical aid in dying,” said the Rev. Cynthia Robinson, pastor of the New Ark United Church of Christ in Newark, DE. “Dying must be embraced as a natural part of life and we must promote understanding and acceptance of diverse spiritual beliefs related to end-of-life decisions.”

    If HB 160 is enacted into law, it would make Delaware the eighth jurisdiction in the nation to authorize medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option. Oregon, where medical aid in dying has been authorized for two decades, has been joined since then by Washington, Montana, Vermont, California, Colorado and Washington, DC.

  10. A Tribute to U.K. Medical Aid-in-Dying Pioneer, Lord Joel Joffe

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    Compassion & Choices is mourning the loss of Joel Joffe, one of the heroes of our worldwide movement and a giant of social justice. One of the greatest honors of my life is that this man — brilliant, kind and courageous in the defense of human rights — became my friend. We understood each other, and I felt humbled to know that in some measure, he returned the enormous admiration I held for him.

    Lord Joel Joffe was South African, but I met him in London in 2004, when he brought a bill to the House of Lords to authorize medical aid in dying (known as “assisted dying” in the U.K.). His bill never advanced, so when he died at age 85 on Sunday, June 18, his goal to help the terminally was still unmet.

    Joel died peacefully at his beloved home in Liddington, a village in Wiltshire, England, with his wife, Vanetta, and his daughters, Deb, Lisa and Abi, beside him. He died shortly after sending a message of affection and gratitude to his family, friends and colleagues.

    As a young lawyer Joel represented Nelson Mandela and eight others prosecuted in 1963 for actions to overturn the apartheid system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination. Writing at the end of the trial, these men called him “the general behind the scenes of our defense.”

    Much better than words from me, these words written in 1964 by Mandela and others from the Pretoria prison convey Joel’s extraordinary character:

    “When our trial started in October 1963, none of us had ever met Joel Joffe before. All we knew of him at the time was that he had cancelled plans to leave South Africa in order to take up our defense. This alone, at a time when frenzied hysteria was being whipped up against us amongst the White population of this country, assured us that he was a man of rare courage and real devotion to the cause of justice …

    We have come to admire and respect this quiet, courageous man, whose devotion to the cause of justice has been shown to be in the very highest tradition of his calling. We will be sorry indeed to end our close relationship with him. But we know that, wherever he is, wherever he may go, Joel’s legal brain and service will be at the call of those in need of justice and defense as it has been so fully and well at ours.”

    In those days of great reckoning, Joel set his moral compass. I will always believe there can be no surer test of the basic human decency of authorized medical aid in dying than that Lord Joel Joffe, champion of human rights, set his course toward this compassionate medical option. I am confident Joel’s vision of kinder, more merciful law will come into being in the United Kingdom. When it does, it will be thanks to Joel’s early, passionate advocacy to educate people about this end-of-life option to end unbearable suffering peacefully, when no other palliative care treatment provides relief.