The following message was sent to our North Country, New York supporters on Monday, June 27:
I’d like to invite you to a Tupper Lake film screening of How to Die in Oregon, an award-winning documentary that offers a moving portrait of people accessing medical aid in dying.
As you know, our campaign to bring the option of medical aid in dying to terminally ill adults in New York has been more successful than ever this year. And now, we’re coming to the North Country to organize the grassroots teams we’ll need to succeed when the legislature goes back into session.
After the film, we’ll discuss our New York campaign, the Medical Aid in Dying Act being considered by the legislature, and what you can do to help pass this crucial legislation.
WHAT: Film screening of How to Die in Oregon and discussion WHEN: Wednesday, July 6, 2016, 4-7:30 pm. Film begins at 4:00 p.m., discussion begins at 6:00. WHERE: Goff-Nelson Memorial Library, 41 Lake St, Tupper Lake, NY 12986
This meeting will give you the opportunity to meet other advocates in the area, share your personal stories, and find out what you can do to improve New Yorkers’ control over their end-of-life care. Light refreshments will be served.
You’ll also have the opportunity to help form the North Country action team. An action team is a local group of supporters who meet regularly and work to build support for end-of-life options. Joining our campaign as a member of the action team will allow you to have a close-up view of local activities and a voice in our strategy in the region.
How to Die in Oregon won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011 and depicts the process of using medical aid in dying, which has been authorized in Oregon for 18 years.
If you’ve already seen the film, or you can’t make it for the start of the event, please feel free to join us for the discussion portion of the event at 6:00 p.m.
The following message was sent to our Indiana supporters on Friday, June 24:
I’d like to invite you to Compassion & Choices Indiana’s annual meeting on July 9.
At the event, we’ll elect board members and present our plans for the upcoming year, which include publicizing relevant educational programs, making presentations to targeted groups and the general public, and other outreach.
WHAT: Compassion & Choices Indiana Annual Meeting WHERE: Shapiro’s Delicatessen, 808 S Meridian Street, Indianapolis WHEN: Saturday, July 9, 2016, 10:30 a.m.
Election of board officers for the one-year 2016/17 term will take place for president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. The four-year terms for four of the current directors expire at the end of June, and they will either be re-confirmed or replaced by new directors up to the maximum allowed number of 15.
All Compassion & Choices Indiana supporters are encouraged to participate and are eligible to be nominated to the board. No RSVP is necessary.
Our supporters received this message today from Patricia A. González-Portillo, Compassion & Choices’ national Latino communications manager:
I want to tell you the story of Miguel Carrasquillo, an amazing young man from Puerto Rico. In the face of terminal illness, he spent his final days fighting for the rights of other dying individuals. Sadly, Miguel died earlier this month without the rights he fought so hard for.
Miguel was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor in 2012, when he was only 30 years old. He fought the cancer for years, undergoing painful procedures to try and find a cure. Tragically, the tumor continued its growth, and after receiving a terminal prognosis from his doctors, Miguel left his home in Chicago to return to his native Puerto Rico and spend his remaining time with his family.
Since medical aid in dying is not authorized in Illinois or in Puerto Rico, he was forced to endure unrelenting pain from headaches and seizures during his last days. This is why Miguel became a vocal advocate for expanding end-of-life options and urged lawmakers in every U.S. state and territory to support medical aid-in-dying legislation.
I had the honor of knowing Miguel and his family, and I saw firsthand the excruciating pain he suffered throughout his final weeks. I saw the anguish on his mother’s face as she watched her only son suffer. And I saw Miguel’s commitment to help expand options for all, despite his own severe pain.
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’s friends and family are eager to continue his legacy and push for medical aid in dying nationwide. His mother said this: “I promised my son that I would not stay quiet about the need for the option of medical aid in dying. I don’t want anyone to suffer needlessly, as Miguel and our family had to.”
Please click the link below to add your name to our card for Miguel’s family:
Big news: this week, the American Medical Association House of Delegates supported a resolution to “study aid in dying as end-of-life option.”
After 30 years of opposition to “euthanasia and assisted suicide,” the AMA’s Council on Judicial and Ethical Affairs will respond to the request to consider (1) data collected from the states that currently authorize aid in dying and (2) input from physicians who have provided medical aid in dying to qualified patients. A report with recommendations regarding a possible neutral stance on aid in dying will be presented to the 2017 House of Delegates.
The following email was sent to our New York supporters on Friday, June 17:
Today marks the end of New York’s 2016 legislative session.
As you know, this year we brought lawmakers to the table to negotiate the Medical Aid in Dying Act. Thanks to more than 1300 supporters like you who contacted your legislators, the New York Assembly Health Committee passed the Medical Aid in Dying Act, our biggest victory in the state yet.
This afternoon, we expect lawmakers to head back home to their districts. Many important bills, including the Medical Aid in Dying Act, will not see a vote by the legislature this year.
This is far from the end of our fight; we’re just hitting our stride. I will host a call on June 29 to fill you in on our plans for the summer and our strategy to come back even stronger next session. I’ll be joined by Senator Diane Savino and Assemblymember Amy Paullin, the sponsors of the Medical Aid in Dying Act, who will give an update on their legislative efforts and strategy for next session.
WHAT: Compassion & Choices New York Statewide Campaign Telephone Town Hall WHEN: Wednesday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m. WHERE: Call-in number: 310-372-7549, access code 401746
Even though we’ve come further than ever before, we still have so much work ahead of us before we can count on support from the majority of lawmakers. That’s why we’re pushing ahead with an aggressive strategy for the summer.
On the call, I’ll talk about our top priorities for the summer, including strengthening our action teams, speaking to legislative candidates about supporting aid-in-dying legislation, visiting lawmakers at their district offices, and recruiting your family’s doctors to join our efforts.
But unlike Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer who inspired the passage of California’s new End of Life Option Act, I am unlikely to die peacefully from my brain tumor as she did after moving with her family to Oregon to utilize its death-with-dignity law.
I did not live in a U.S. state or territory that gives terminally ill adults like me the option to get a prescription for aid-in-dying medication I could decide to take to die peacefully, as Brittany did, to end unbearable suffering.
As a result, I lived my last days with every horror that Brittany feared most: mind-splitting headaches, blackouts, blindness, convulsions and electric shocks from the incurable brain tumor that spread to my liver, stomach, testicles and other vital organs.
I didn’t want the tumor to dictate how I would die. I wanted to die the way I lived, with purpose and intention. I wanted to die gently and avoid the terrifyingly painful death that doctors said I would experience.
My life didn’t have to end this way. I did not commit a crime to live in a prison with a sentence of intolerable suffering.
Unfortunately, medical aid in dying is not an authorized option in my native Puerto Rico, where my Catholic parents cared for me during the last days of my life.
I was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a deadly form of brain cancer, in 2012. I endured invasive, agonizing procedures to unsuccessfully try to cure the cancer. And the morphine connected to my sciatic nerve did little to alleviate my pain.
For over a year, I watched Brittany Maynard’s videos. I researched moving to one of the states that authorize medical aid in dying — Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont or California, where the End of Life Option law took effect on June 9.
But my family didn’t have the resources Brittany did to move 2,000 miles or more to one of these five states. I had to live and die with this horrible pain.
It is clear we have an issue in our country, where it is not affordable or practical for the vast majority of terminally ill people to move to another state far away from their home, establish residency and find a medical team in order to die peacefully.
We shouldn’t have to die with unbearable pain. We shouldn’t have to suffer.
So we must take action. We must email our legislators and urge them to support broader end-of-life options.
We must urge our doctors to support their patients’ last wishes, whether they agree with them or not.
And we Latinos must drop our cultural taboo around discussing death and the option of medical aid in dying.
I had numerous conversations with God throughout my life, especially during my illness. I could not understand why people judged me as a sinner for wanting to die peacefully rather than enduring severe seizures and excruciating pain until the end of my life.
As a Catholic, I was taught it is wrong for anyone to judge someone else. Until you’ve walked a mile in another person’s shoes, you should not stand in the way of them having this option.
“Latino Brittany Maynard”
I was proud to learn I was Compassion & Choices first terminally ill Latino advocate for medical aid in dying when I recorded videos in English and in Spanish to urge legislators in U.S. states and territories, including Illinois and my native Puerto Rico, to pass medical aid-in-dying bills.
Between agonizing headaches, electric shocks and convulsions, I gave TV and print interviews, and wrote op-eds published by numerous media outlets demanding the option of medical aid in dying.
Some media outlets referred to me as the “Latino Brittany Maynard.”
Fighting for options
I am no longer alive to tell my story.
But my mama will not go silent. She will continue to be a loud, powerful voice so other terminally ill Latinos like myself hopefully don’t have to suffer as I did. We need to keep fighting and fighting until somebody listens to us.
Miguel Carrasquillo was a 35-year-old chef who lived in New York City from 2004 to 2006. He wrote this op-ed two days before he died from cancer on June 5 and requested it be published posthumously.
Compassion & Choices praised the American Medical Association (AMA) for considering a resolution that will lead to a study of aid in dying as an option for terminally ill adults. The AMA House of Delegates voted on Monday to refer Resolution 015 – Study aid-in-dying as end-of-life option – to the AMA Board of Trustees in light of the continuing evolution of thinking in this area.
In keeping with the decision to refer Resolution 015, it is anticipated that the AMA Board of Trustees will ask the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) to examine AMA ethical policy prohibiting physician participation in assisted suicide (Opinion E-2.211). In keeping with Council practice, CEJA will review relevant literature and data, and deliberate whether current AMA ethical policy should be reaffirmed or amended in a manner yet to be determined. CEJA will report the results of its deliberations to the House of Delegates at a future date.
“We thank the AMA for responding to physician and public sentiment to reexamine its position on medical aid in dying,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney who was an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years before she coauthored the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. “National polls show the vast majority of American doctors and their patients support medical aid in dying because they want this option to avoid unbearable suffering at the end of life.”
In addition to California, four other states authorize the option of medical aid in dying: Oregon (since 1997), Washington (since 2008), Montana (since 2009) and Vermont (since 2013).
“Oregon’s experience with our Death with Dignity Act shows terminally ill adults benefit from the law regardless if they decide to utilize medical aid in dying or not,” said Dr. Glenn Gordon, a retired surgeon, former advisory board member of Compassion & Choices of Oregon and alternate delegate for the Oregon Medical Association, who initiated the resolution. “It has encouraged earlier conversations about end-of-life care, as well as better and more frequent use of hospice and palliative care. Hospice care has improved markedly in the past couple of decades and works cooperatively when patients request the option of medical aid in dying.”
After open hearings on Resolution 015, a reference committee of the House of Delegates concluded:
“Support for this resolution was largely in favor of the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs studying the issue of medical aid-in-dying. The testimony spoke to the fact that many states have proposed or adopted legislation to legalize the practice, introducing a potential conflict for our members in those states. Additional testimony recognized the need for our American Medical Association to respond to this highly relevant and expanding issue that may impact medical practice, looking to the Council for guidance. With these considerations in mind your Reference Committee recommends that Resolution 015 be referred.”
The House of Delegates adopted by acclamation the reference committee’s recommendation to refer Resolution 15.
Every June, Pride Month, we strive to honor our allies in the LGBT community by reflecting on our long partnership and strong commitment to one another.
The medical aid-in-dying movement and the LGBT rights movement are deeply intertwined, helping each other achieve monumental progress over the years. From the charge to pass the nation’s first death-with-dignity act in 1994 to allowing same-sex partners to act as healthcare proxies for one another, the two movements have decades of crossover.
“Many of us who worked on helping people with AIDS to get the care they needed soon transitioned over to the end-of-life movement,” says Derianna Mooney, a retired Compassion & Choices Oregon client volunteer. “It was mutually beneficial to have allies within the LGBT community, activists handling our issue, fighting for the rights for people to die with dignity.”
“During the AIDS crisis, our community developed a strong network of caring and supportive doctors with whom all subjects were on the table in order to survive. These open and forthright conversations saved countless lives. As members of the LGBT community age, continuing these open conversations on end-of-life matters is critical to having a peaceful death,” says Mark Dann, former Compassion & Choices LGBT outreach manager, now working as federal affairs director.
“It’s no coincidence that the first successful law passed in Oregon right at the height of the AIDS crisis. We worked with families who were witnessing their loved ones suffer so greatly and who were desperate for expanded end-of-life options,” Dann continues. “Our movement wouldn’t be anywhere without the LGBT rights movement.”
The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) supports medical aid-in-dying bills in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut, and has voiced support for California’s End of Life Option Act, which was enacted on June 9.
We continue to work together with the LGBT community in support of autonomy and self determination, two of our Seven Principles for Person-Centered End-of-Life Care.
Join us in celebrating Pride Month this June. Click here to learn more about how you can show your support for both movements by ordering a Pride in a Box Toolkit, or click below to download our 2016 Pride graphic to share on your own Facebook.
La ley de California, Opción al Final de la Vida, entrará en efecto mañana, autorizando a un 12 por ciento de los adultos con enfermedades terminales a nivel nacional a tener la opción de solicitar la asistencia médica para morir si su sufrimiento se vuelve insoportable. Los otros estados que con anterioridad autorizaron la asistencia médica para morir son: Oregon (1997), Washington (2008), Montana (2009) y Vermont (2013) – comprenden un 4 por ciento de la población nacional.
“Mañana es un día monumental para los californianos que sufren de alguna enfermedad terminal. Muchos californianos con enfermedades terminales – como Jennifer Glass y Christy O’Donnell – pasaron sus últimos meses de vida abogando por esta opción, que finalmente es una realidad”, dijo Matt Whitaker, Director de California para Compassion & Choices.
“En base a la experiencia con leyes similares en otros estados, menos de un 1 por ciento de los californianos con enfermedades terminales necesitará la asistencia médica para morir”, dijo Whitaker. “Pero el simple hecho de tener la opción les dará la tranquilidad mental que a menudo les da el cuidado paliativo. Esta ley está fomentando las conversaciones abiertas y honestas entre las familias californianas sobre las opciones en el cuidado al final de la vida, que anteriormente no se daban”.
La implementación de la nueva ley es un gran alivio para Elizabeth Wallner, una madre soltera de Sacramento de 52 años, que vive con un cáncer terminal en el colon y que ya se ha sometido a seis cirugías para remover partes de su hígado y colon. Ella se ha sometido a tratamientos de radiación, ‘radio-ablation’ y otros tratamientos que le han dado la mínima esperanza de prolongar su vida.
“Me tranquiliza saber que la ley Opción al Final de la Vida entra en vigor mañana, y que puedo preguntarle a mi cirujano por la receta del medicamento que puedo tomar cuando yo quiera si mi sufrimiento se vuelve insoportable, en el final de esta enfermedad mortal, y que me dejará morir mientras duerma”, dijo. “Pero solo porque voy a tener esta opción, no significa que voy a morir el 9 de junio. De hecho, seguiré viviendo mi vida al máximo y cuidando a mis padres de edad avanzada”.
Matt Fairchild, un católico de 46 años, sargento retirado del ejército, residente en Burbank, que vive con un melanoma terminal que se ha extendido a los huesos, pulmones y cerebro, dijo que él y su esposa de 18 años, Ginger, sintieron un gran alivio cuando aprobaron la ley.
“No sé si voy a tomar el medicamento que me ayude a morir cuando lo obtenga, o si dejaré que la naturaleza siga su curso, pero quiero la opción de ponerle fin a mi sufrimiento si llega a ser demasiado duro”, dijo Fairchild, quien toma 20 píldoras para tratar los síntomas de su cáncer y ha pasado por muchas cirugías para extender su vida. “Irónicamente, el tener el medicamento que me ayude a morir en mis manos, me permitirá enfocarme en vivir y no en morir”.
Compassion & Choices recientemente lanzó una campaña bilingüe para educar a los californianos con enfermedades terminales, sus familias y proveedores de salud sobre los beneficios y requisitos de la ley del estado que ayuda a morir con asistencia médica.
Los doctores, farmaceutas y residentes de California pueden tener acceso a la información de la ley Opción al Final de la Vida, llamando a la línea gratuita de Compassion & Choices al 1-800-893-4548, o visitando el sitio:www.EndOfLifeOption.org. Los médicos de California, también pueden hablar con doctores con años de experiencia en las opciones del cuidado al final de la vida, incluyendo la asistencia médica para morir, llamando a la línea confidencial de Compassion & Choices, Doc2Doc: 1-800-247-7421.
“Una parte importante de la asistencia médica para morir es conservar la relación entre la persona con una enfermedad terminal y su médico”, dijo la doctora Catherine S. Forest, MD MPH, directora del centro médico Stanford Health Care en Los Altos, profesora clínica asistente de la escuela de medicina Stanford School of Medicine y doctora en medicina familiar por más de 20 años. “Le permite al médico el honor de escribir la receta para una condición y circunstancia única para ese paciente, tal como lo hacen al escribir una receta para cualquier y / o otro medicamento.”
Dan Díaz, el viudo de Brittany Maynard, que vive en Alamo y abogó por la Ley de California Opción al Final de la Vida y que ahora está trabajando por una legislación similar en otros estados, compartió estar muy orgullo al recordar a su esposa.
“La opción al final de la vida que apoyó Brittany ahora se convertirá en ley en nuestro estado natal de California el 9 de junio”, dijo. “Esto significa que todo individuo con una enfermedad terminal no tendrá que salir de su casa como lo hicimos nosotros y que esa persona podrá tener la opción de irse en paz, cuando sea necesario para ellos.”
Como parte de la Campaña de Acceso California, Compassion & Choices se ha asociado con centros médicos, centros de cuidados paliativos, centros de salud comunitarios y organizaciones sin fines de lucro para asegurarse que los californianos en todo el estado entienden que la ayuda médica para morir es una opción legítima y accesible dentro de los cuidados al final de su vida.
The California End of Life Option Act takes effect June 9, authorizing 12 percent of terminally ill adults nationwide to have the option to request medical aid in dying if their suffering becomes intolerable. The other states that previously authorized medical aid in dying – Oregon (1997), Washington (2008), Montana (2009) and Vermont (2013) – comprise 4 percent of the nation’s population.
“This is a monumental day for Californians suffering from terminal diseases. Many dying Californians – like Jennifer Glass and Christy O’Donnell – spent their final months advocating for this option that finally is a reality,” said Matt Whitaker, California State Director for Compassion & Choices.
“Based on the experience with similar laws in other states, less than 1 percent of terminally ill Californians will need to utilize medical aid in dying,” said Whitaker. “But simply having the option gives them peace of mind that often has a palliative effect. This law is spurring open, honest conversations among California families about end-of-life care options that were not taking place before.”
The new law’s implementation is a tremendous relief for Elizabeth Wallner, a 52-year old Sacramento single mom living with terminal colon cancer who endured 6 surgeries to remove parts of my liver and colon. She has undergone radiation, radio-ablation and other treatments that offer even the slightest hope of extending her life.
“I am relieved to know the End of Life Option Act will take effect, and I can ask my surgeon for prescription medication that I can decide to ingest if my suffering becomes intolerable in the final stages of this deadly disease which will allow me to die peacefully in my sleep,” she said. “But just because I will have this option does not mean my life will end on June 9. In fact, I will continue to live life to the fullest and care for my aging parents.”
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 said he and his wife of 18 years, Ginger, felt a sense of relief.
“I don’t know if I will take the aid-in-dying medication once I get it, or if nature will just take its course, but I want the option to end my suffering if it becomes too much to endure,” said Fairchild, who takes 20 pills a day to treat his cancer symptoms and has undergone numerous surgeries to extend his life. “Ironically, having the aid-in-dying medication in hand will enable me to focus on living, not on dying.”
Compassion & Choices recently launched a statewide bilingual campaign to educate terminally ill Californians, families and medical providers about the benefits and requirements of the state’s medical aid-in-dying law. California doctors, pharmacists and residents can access information on the End of Life Option Act by calling Compassion & Choices’ free hotline, 1-800-893-4548, or by visiting: www.EndOfLifeOption.org. California physicians also can speak to doctors with years of experience in end-of-life care options, including medical aid in dying, by calling Compassion & Choices’ free, confidential Doc2Doc consultation program: 1-800-247-7421.
“A central part of medical aid in dying is that it preserves the relationship between a terminally ill person and her or his doctor,” said Dr. Catherine S. Forest, MD MPH, medical director at the Stanford Health Care at Los Altos, clinical assistant professor of medicine at the Stanford School of Medicine and a practicing family physician for over 20 years. “It allows a doctor to honor each person’s unique condition and circumstance when writing the prescription, just as they do in writing a prescription for any and/or every other medication.”
Dan Diaz, Brittany Maynard’s widower, who lives in Alamo and advocated for the California End of Life Option Act and now is advocating for similar legislation in other states, shared with a sense of pride as he recalled his late wife.
“The end-of-life option that Brittany supported will now become law in our home state of California on June 9th,” he said. “This means a terminally ill individual will not have to leave home like we did and that individual can pursue this option of a gentle passing if it becomes necessary for them.”
As part of the California Access Campaign, Compassion & Choices is partnering with medical centers, hospice facilities, community health centers and nonprofit organizations to ensure Californians statewide understand that medical aid in dying is a legitimate, accessible end-of-life care option.